Travel restrictions in Canada: on-board vaccination mandates end

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The Canadian government is dropping the requirement that outbound domestic and international travelers be fully vaccinated against COVID-19, effective June 20. However, all re-entry requirements will remain in effect and all passengers will continue to be required to wear face masks.

This change will allow unvaccinated Canadians to board planes and trains bound for domestic or international destinations, but they will still need to follow current testing and quarantine requirements when returning from international destinations.

Foreign nationals coming to Canada will still need to be vaccinated to enter, although they may leave the country if they are not vaccinated.

Additionally, “due to the unique nature of cruise ship travel,” vaccination requirements for cruise ship passengers and crew will remain in effect.

The requirement to use the ArriveCAN app to show proof of vaccination on arrival to avoid a federal quarantine will continue, and all travelers will need to continue to comply with entry requirements from other countries, which could limit the destinations that unvaccinated travelers can visit. Many countries, including the United States, continue to require proof of vaccination upon entry.

Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic LeBlanc, Transportation Minister Omar Alghabra, Treasury Board President Mona Fortier and Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos made the announcement on Tuesday, alongside major updates to the mandates of Canada vaccination for transportation workers and federal employees.

Revealing the updated policies, the government says the warrants were effective during the height of the pandemic, but were never meant to be permanent. However, should the number of cases increase again, federal officials say they will not hesitate to reinstate any suspended COVID-19 travel restrictions.

The Canadian government says the move now comes “after a successful vaccination campaign.” Nearly 90% of eligible Canadians are vaccinated against COVID-19.

“Today’s decision is not based on something we woke up yesterday or this morning and decided to do. We did our homework… What brought us [to] today was a period of discussions, consultations, overview, preparation for a possible wave in the fall, but [also] the current situation today,” Alghabra said. “Clearly the COVID situation is not the same now as it was last fall when we implemented the vaccine mandate.

Federal mandates requiring all passengers on planes or trains to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 before boarding were first promised by the Liberals during the last federal election and took effect in October 2021.

In recent months, pressure has intensified for the government to lift vaccination requirements for opposition politicians and the travel industry, citing major strains and delays at Canadian airports, as well as the relaxation of provincial public health rules.

Throughout those calls, the Liberals have defended the mandates, repeatedly referencing the need to follow science and the advice of public health officials.

On Tuesday, ministers said the federal government’s “top priority” remains the safety of Canadians and that the move is unrelated to easing pressure at Canadian airports, which they attribute to “staff shortages.” “.

Instead, ministers cited the evolution of the virus, current epidemiological and modeling projections and Canada’s high vaccination rate as key factors in lifting the warrants now.

With the change in policy likely resulting in an even larger influx of travelers at Canadian airports, the Minister of Transport had to question whether the government was equipped to adequately handle the additional crowds. He said work continues with the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) to “increase efficiency.”

The government last week halted its mandatory random testing for vaccinated travelers at airports, but maintained the requirement for all unvaccinated travelers to be swabbed.

In order to be considered fully vaccinated under federal policy, people had to show proof of a full round of vaccinations, but not a booster dose, despite calls from public health officials to do so. of a third dose part of the requirement to better protect against serious diseases. illness and to boost waning immunity.

On Tuesday, Duclos said the Omicron variant showed that two doses “are not enough anymore”, although the government is only encouraging those who have not yet received a booster dose of a COVID-19 vaccine to do so. TO DO.

“Our recall rate in Canada is too low. It is lower than all the other G7 countries, and that is not good. However, we know we can do better…and that’s [what] we’re going to be doing that as well in the weeks and months ahead with all the provinces and territories, so that we’re better prepared and sufficiently prepared for what…may happen in the fall. »

Responding to the news, the National Airlines Council of Canada, which represents Canada’s largest carriers, including Air Canada and WestJet, said it sees the decision as “an important step for the aviation industry, the tourism industry and for Canadian travellers”, but said that it is not enough to solve the problems at airports.

The Council is calling for immediate changes to ArriveCAN to eliminate duplicate health checks, end warrants for incoming international travelers, and commit to making recent warrant and random testing suspensions permanent.

“The government’s decision to suspend the national vaccination mandate for airline and transportation workers is a positive step, which will simplify many aspects of travel and bring Canada closer to the emerging standard currently in place around the world. Airlines will work diligently to implement these changes,” the council’s interim president and CEO, Suzanne Acton-Gervais, said in a statement.

Conservative transport spokeswoman Melissa Lantsman said while the government had ‘finally’ decided to end travel mandates, she said a suspension was not the same as a complete elimination . “Some vaccine mandates are not all vaccine mandates. Still NO science we’ve seen to back up mandates,” she tweeted.

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said his team was consulted on the decision to scrap those mandates before the announcement was made, given the NDP reached a confidence and supply agreement with the Liberals .

“We said that’s a very important factor in any decision, that we follow the best evidence and let Canadians know why certain orders are in place…And if there’s no more evidence, we don’t shouldn’t continue with a [public health] order,” Singh said. “We supported this decision.

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