Border vaccine rules, mandatory use of ArriveCAN, mask mandates on planes and trains to end on Oct. 1
Border-city mayors have called for the regulations to be lifted for years
The federal government says it's dropping all COVID-19 measures at borders on Saturday, meaning travellers will no longer need to provide proof of vaccination when entering Canada or wear masks on planes and trains.
As of Oct. 1, all travellers, regardless of citizenship, will no longer have to:
- Submit public health information through the ArriveCAN app or website;
- Provide proof of vaccination;
- Undergo pre- or on-arrival testing;
- Carry out COVID-19-related quarantine or isolation;
- Monitor and report if they develop signs or symptoms of COVID-19 upon arriving to Canada;
- Undergo health checks for travel on air and rail;
- Or wear masks on planes and trains.
Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos said Monday's decision is not a sign Canada is out of the pandemic, but said the government's data showed the importation of new variants was no longer having an effect on the evolution of the virus in country.
WATCH | Canada drops masks on planes and trains:
"If anybody believes the pandemic is over, I invite them to visit a hospital," he said.
"That decision again was driven by the evidence that we have seen over the last few weeks and months, which is that the transmission and cost of transmission of COVID-19 on our health-care workers, hospitals and including those patients who have seen backlogs in their surgeries and treatments over the last two years and a half ... are now almost entirely driven by domestic transmission of COVID-19. That's where we need to invest our energy."
The measures also apply to cruise ships so passengers will no longer be required to take pre-board tests, be vaccinated or use ArriveCAN. The government said guidelines will remain in place to protect passengers and crew, keeping in step with the United States.
The move comes after MPs and border-city mayors published an open letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and U.S. President Joe Biden last week asking them to end the "unnecessary" rules at the border, a move they say would allow border communities to recover economically from the pandemic.
On Monday, Niagara Falls Mayor Jim Diodati said he's glad the federal government is dropping all pandemic border measures but fears American tourists will continue to bypass Canada in the future.
"This should have happened at the beginning of the tourism season. We were devastated here in Niagara Falls," he said.
"A lot of the travelling public have decided to go elsewhere this past summer. Our concern is that they enjoyed it and want to continue it."
The head of the Canadian Airports Council said the organization is relieved to know its members can return to normal operations.
"The aviation industry was hard-hit over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic and has been forced to operate under a complicated and constantly shifting series of restrictions and regulations for over two years," said president Monette Pasher in a media statement.
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Duclos said those concerns also weighed on the government's decision to lift the measures.
"When making those decisions, we are mindful of the challenges and the cost that border communities have been facing over the last few weeks and months. It has been hard for them," he said.
"My colleagues and all members of our caucus have felt that and listened to them."
The health minister didn't rule out reinstating restrictions if they are needed to keep Canadians safe.
Masks still recommended: Njoo
While masks will soon no longer be mandatory, Dr. Howard Njoo, Canada's deputy chief health officer, said he still recommends that people wear masks on planes and trains.
"The science is clear: wearing a mask is clearly a means of personal protection that is extremely effective," he said.
"I hope Canadians will make an enlightened decision about this."
WATCH | One of Canada's top doctors urges Canadians to keep wearing masks:
Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino said the ArriveCan app can still be used by travellers to submit customs declarations in advance at major airports. That option is available at international airports in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver, but there are plans to expand to airports in Calgary, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Ottawa, Quebec City, Halifax and the Billy Bishop airport in Toronto.
The government also said the Canada Border Services Agency is looking at adding features to ArriveCan, like border wait times.
Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre was quick to claim the decision as a victory.
"After constant pressure from Conservatives [and] people across Canada, Trudeau Liberals finally back down on the disastrous ArriveCAN app, unscientific vaccine mandates and forced mask-wearing," he tweeted Monday.
"None of the science changes October 1 but because of you, Trudeau has to. Let's keep it up."
WATCH | Canada announces ease of border measures:
with files from the Canadian Press