Canada to end all COVID travel restrictions from October 1

The move is likely to boost the Canadian travel industry, already booming after months of lull during the pandemic.

A protester stands in front of police officers, who stand guard on a street after Windsor Police said that they are starting to enforce a court order to clear truckers and supporters who have been protesting against coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine mandates by blocking access to the Ambassador Bridge
Canadian carriers have been pressing for an end to mask mandates on flights [File: Carlos Osorio/Reuters]

Canada will drop all COVID-19 restrictions for travellers from October 1, including vaccination and masking requirements for flights and trains, the government has said.

The move, announced on Monday, is likely to boost the Canadian travel industry, already booming after months of lull during the pandemic.

Canadian carriers were also pressing for an end to mask mandates on flights, citing thousands of incidents of non-compliance this year alone.

“As Canadians and international visitors look to make travel plans, the long-awaited removal of all remaining measures effective Oct. 1, 2022 will further expedite recovery for our industry and the Canadian economy,” Canada’s second-largest carrier, WestJet Airlines, said in a statement.

The decision to end restrictions was based on Canada’s vaccination rate, the availability of newer vaccines and treatments and data showing the country had passed the peak of the latest wave of coronavirus infections, the government said.

“We’ll continue to follow the latest available science and do whatever is necessary to protect your health,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in a tweet.

More than 90 percent of Canadians over age 12 have taken the primary series of a COVID-19 vaccine. This month, Canada authorised Moderna Inc’s bivalent COVID-19 shots for adults, the country’s first Omicron-adapted vaccine.

“Thanks largely to Canadians who have rolled up their sleeves to get vaccinated, we have reached the point where we can safely lift the sanitary measures at the border,” Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos said.

Duclos said the government was prepared to reinstate restrictions if needed.

“Obviously we have no hope to reintroduce some of these measures but if we need to protect the safety of Canadians, we will have to,” he told reporters in Ottawa.

Travellers, regardless of citizenship, will not have to submit health information through the ArriveCAN app or provide proof of vaccination from Saturday.

A requirement for travellers to wear masks on planes and trains would also be dropped. Cruise ship passengers and crew would also no longer be subject to vaccine requirements or COVID-19 testing.

Monday’s announcement was welcomed by the leader of Canada’s opposition Conservative Party, Pierre Poilievre, who said it was the result of “constant pressure from Conservatives & people across Canada”.

The Canadian government’s COVID-19 vaccine requirements have drawn considerable scorn from right-wing politicians, especially as vaccination rates increased, and they spurred anti-Trudeau protests during last year’s federal election campaign.

Anti-vaccine protesters also blocked key US-Canada border crossings and occupied the streets of downtown Ottawa for several weeks earlier this year in anger over mandatory jab requirements and other pandemic measures.

On Monday, a group representing truck drivers in North America and a New York lawmaker asked US President Joe Biden’s administration to rescind a requirement for foreign visitors to be vaccinated.

The United States in June rescinded its requirement that people arriving in the country by air test negative for COVID-19 but has not lifted vaccination requirements for nearly all foreign visitors arriving by air or at land ports.

US Representative Brian Higgins, a Republican who represents a New York district on the Canadian border, said “the end of restrictions is overdue”. “Canada’s decision is the right one. The US should follow immediately,” he said.

Source: Al Jazeera, Reuters