TORONTO — The end has finally come for Canada’s COVID-19 border measures, including mandatory use of the ArriveCAN app, vaccination requirements and random testing for anyone entering the country.
Unexpectedly – but in another bit of great news for the travel industry – the federal government is also dropping the mask mandate for air travel.
The changes take effect Oct. 1, 2022.
As expected based on reports last week, federal ministers made the announcement early this morning, Sept. 26, following months of criticism from advocacy groups, airlines and travel industry experts who’ve argued that these measures have led to massive delays at Canada’s airports and are no longer effective given the current state of the pandemic, Canada’s high vaccination rates and the easing of travel restrictions around the world.
During a press conference this morning, Transport Minister Omar Alghabra, Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos and more said the removal of border measures has been facilitated by a number of factors. Those factors include modelling that indicates that Canada has largely passed the peak of the Omicron BA.4 and BA.5 fuelled wave, Canada’s high vaccination rates, lower hospitalization and death rates, as well as the availability and use of vaccine boosters (including new bivalent formulation), rapid tests, and treatments for COVID-19.
“As the pandemic evolves, so too do our health measures,” said Dominic LeBlanc, Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs. “We feel now that we can change our approach at the border.”
Effective Oct.1, 2022, 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
Transport Canada is also removing existing travel requirements. As of October 1, 2022, travellers will no longer be required to
- Undergo health checks for travel on air and rail; or
- Wear masks on planes and trains
Cruise measures are also being lifted, and travellers will no longer be required to have pre-board tests, be vaccinated, or use ArriveCAN. A set of guidelines will remain to protect passengers and crew, which will align with the approach used in the U.S.
“We are in a much better position than we were in 2020,” said Minister Duclos this morning. While vaccination rates in Canada are high, he reminded Canadians to get their boosters: “Immunity is like a phone battery. At some point it needs to be recharged.”
He also noted, as before, that the government “will leave open all possible options” for bringing back travel measures in the future, if needed: “We need to be prepared.”
NO MORE MASKS
Minister Alghabra was the one to make the announcement about the mask mandate dropping effective Oct. 1, and the cruise measures lifting that date as well.
Alghabra added that the federal government will continue to “strongly encourage” Canadians to wear masks onboard airplanes, trains and cruise ships.
He also took a moment to express his appreciation for the travel industry.
“I want to say a big thank you to everyone in the travel industry, for all their hard work during the pandemic,” said Alghabra. “Everyone rose to the occasion.”
Immediately after the federal government’s announcement, WestJet released a statement from WestJet Group CEO Alexis von Hoensbroech.
WestJet has been among the most vocal proponents of dropping the mask requirement, saying that mask compliance continues to be a major factor in disruptive behaviour onboard its aircraft.
In his statement von Hoensbroech outlines the government’s travel measure changes taking effect Oct. 1, including the elimination of the mask mandate.
“We are relieved our guests can finally travel with additional confidence and certainty, knowing they can make decisions that are the best for them, and their travel plans won’t be interrupted,” he said.