People who have recently been infected with COVID-19 and have recovered may continue to have a positive COVID-19 test result even after recovery, while not being infectious. How is it then possible to travel, while respecting the rules of the different countries?
Let’s look at the main rules Canada, the United States and France impose to people who have had COVID-19, but have recovered.
Canada: Rules for people who have recovered from COVID-19
You are travelling to Canada
In Canada, if you’re 12 years of age plus 4 months, or older, you’ll need to be fully vaccinated in order to board:
- domestic or international flights departing from most airports in Canada, including charter and foreign airlines carrying commercial passengers
- VIA Rail and Rocky Mountaineer trains
Several exemptions to the requirements are possible: if you are symptom free, you can provide proof of a positive COVID-19 molecular test instead of a negative result. The test must have been done at least 14 days (10 days as of January 15, 2022) and no more than 180 days before your scheduled departure day.
Proof of a positive COVID-19 test result must come from an accepted molecular test type:
- PCR: polymerase chain reaction
- Nucleic acid test (NAT) or nucleic acid amplification test (NAAT)
- Reverse transcription loop-mediated isothermal amplification (RT-LAMP)
- RT-PCR: reverse transcription followed by real-time polymerase chain reaction
- Quantitative PCR (qPCR)
- Isothermal amplification
- Droplet digital PCR or digital droplet PCR (ddPCR)
- Transcription-mediated amplification test (TMA)
- RNA (ribonucleic acid)
- Ct (cycle threshold)
- Next generational sequencing (NGS) or whole genome sequencing (WGS)
- Oxford Nanopore sequencing (LamPORE)
- Detection of the N gene
- Detection of Orf1a/b genes
- Detection of the S gene
- Detection of the E-gene
- Detection of the RdRp gene
Rapid antigen tests are not accepted.
Returning to Canada from abroad
Travellers who have previously tested positive for COVID-19 must provide proof of a positive molecular test for COVID-19 taken between 14 and 180 days prior to arrival in Canada or the time of departure of the scheduled flight.
Travelers with a positive COVID-19 test of more than 14 days (10 days as of January 15, 2022) and a maximum of 180 days are exempt from the Departure and Arrival Tests under the Order to reduce the risk of exposure to COVID-19 in Canada (Quarantine, Isolation and Other Obligations Order).
You will need to provide this information directly in the ArriveCan application before you arrive in the country.
United States: rules for COVID-19 recoveries
You are travelling to the United States
If you are in Canada and wish to travel to the United States by air, it is mandatory to provide a negative test or proof of recovery from COVID-19.
For those who have recovered from COVID-19, you must provide:
- a positive COVID-19 test result no older than 90 days
- a letter of recovery from a health care provider or public health official indicating that you have been cleared to travel or return to work or school.
This letter certifying your recovery is called “documentation of recovery“. This letter must:
- be in English
- be on the provider’s letterhead
- be signed and dated by the care provider
- contain the name, address, and telephone number of the care provider
- contain your name and date of birth (identical to the information on your passport)
These terms and conditions apply to all travellers aged two years and over.
You are currently in the United States
To travel within the United States, you do not need to test or isolate yourself if you have recovered from COVID-19 and can prove a positive test within the last 90 days.
To return to Canada from the United States, regardless of your citizenship or vaccination status, you must provide one of the following documents to enter Canada:
- a negative molecular test result for COVID-19
- proof of a positive COVID-19 test result older than 14 days (10 days as of January 15, 2022) and no older than 180 days before arrival in Canada
France: Rules for COVID-19 recoveries
You are travelling to France
If you are in Canada, and have recently contracted COVID-19, you have the option of going to France. According to the French Consulate in Montreal, to travel to France, you must:
- Have had no symptoms for at least 48 hours
- Not have been in contact with a confirmed case of Covid-19 for at least 14 days
- Present a negative antigenic or RT-PCR test.
If the test you have done to travel is positive because of your contamination dating back to more than 15 days, and only in case of compelling reason (death, close relative at the end of life,…), you can request from the Consulate a test exemption to allow you to travel.
In order to get this exemption, send an email to email@example.com:
- Your return air ticket
- Proof of compelling reason
- Your previous positive RT-PCR test is more than 15 days and less than 6 months old from the date of your flight
- The antigenic or PCR test performed for your trip to France less than 48 hours before the time of take-off and showing a positive result
- A doctor’s certificate of recovery stating that you are no longer contagious
- Copy of your passport.
You are currently in France
If you are in France and travel in France or in the European Union, it is necessary to obtain a COVID-19 recovery certificate which is presented in the form of a QR Code, valid for the health pass.
In fact, it is a COVID-19 positive PCR or antigenic test result of at least 11 days and less than 6 months after being infected. Self-tests do not provide a certificate of recovery. Thus, this COVID-19 recovery certificate is valid for a period of 6 months from the date of the test.
The COVID-19 recovery certificate is a proof of non-contamination from COVID-19 and allows you to get a health pass. With this health pass, it is then possible to travel in France, but also in Europe with the European health certificate.
To return to Canada from France, and regardless of your citizenship or vaccination status, you must provide one of the following documents to enter Canada:
- a negative molecular test result for COVID-19
- proof of a positive COVID-19 test result older than 14 days (10 days as of January 15, 2022) and up to 180 days
Quebec: Getting your positive test result
You have a positive COVID-19 test in Quebec but only have the email from the Quebec government as proof? This could be problematic, since the email does not mention all the necessary information (including the type of test).
Here are our tips for obtaining a complete certificate that will allow you to travel.
The first is through the CIUSSS in your region.
You will need to contact the CIUSSS archives in your region by email (Subject: Résultat COVID-19), requesting a copy of the test, and adding the following information:
- First and last name
- Phone number
- Date of Birth
- Health insurance number
- Full address
- Date and place of sampling
This document could also be obtained by contacting your family doctor.
You will then receive a certificate with all the required information. This one being in French, it will be particularly useful for travelling from Canada with Air Canada or any other airline where French is the language of use.
The second possibility is via your online health record (Carnet Santé) if you are registered.
You can get the full report online via your Health Record or from your pharmacy.
As you can see, the rules vary from country to country. To summarize and in order to travel more serenely after having been recovered from COVID-19:
- Keep proof of your positive COVID-19 test
- Make sure you are within the required timeframe for both your country of departure and destination (some countries accept positive tests up to 90 days, others up to 180 days)
- Get a letter of recovery from COVID-19 from a health professional
- Check your insurance coverage before you leave and get written confirmation