Canada on Friday said it is lifting the ban on international travel on Nigeria and nine other countries in Africa starting December 18 at 11:59 p.m.
Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos who made the announcement said that other countries are South Africa, Mozambique, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Eswatini, Namibia, Malawi and Egypt.
Canada first implemented the ban on November 26 to seven African countries, but within days expanded to 10 following the announcement of the Omicron variant.
The ban was originally set to expire on January 31.
Canada says it will also re-introduce pre-arrival tests for all new incoming travellers.
Currently, Canadian residents can leave and come back within 72 hours without needing a pre-arrival COVID-19 test. A negative pre-arrival test will be required for all new arrivals to Canada starting December 21.
The government said the bans were originally put in place due to a high rate of travellers testing positive for coronavirus from those countries. However, African political leaders and scientists criticized Canada for only including African countries in its ban, even though the Omicron variant had been detected in 44 countries at the time.
Canada was also the only country among the Group of Seven nations to require its citizens to return with a COVID-19 test from a third country, although this requirement was temporarily suspended for South Africa.
The federal government also requires travellers who are allowed to still enter Canada from those countries to get a negative COVID-19 test in a third country before boarding – which travellers say has made getting to Canada next to impossible. Over the weekend, the government suspended that requirement for South Africa.
Canada’s ban, along with other bans from Western countries became known as “travel apartheid.” The World Health Organization Director-Genera Tendros Adhanom Ghebrevesus said the rules were disappointing. Advocates from within Canada also called for the rules to end.
In mid-December, when Canada’s two top doctors were asked about the rationale for continuing the ban, one said there was none and the other said the bans should be re-examined.