Canada’s COVID-19 travel restrictions will no longer be in place as of Oct. 1, government officials announced this week.
Travelers have been able to enter the country since Sept. 7, 2021, but only if they were fully vaccinated against the virus, while unvaccinated citizens and permanent residents returning to Canada had to self-quarantine for 14 days, CNN reported.
“This means that as of Oct. 1 travelers will no longer be required to undergo health checks for travel on air and rail or wear masks on planes and trains,” Omar Alghabra, Canada’s minister of transport, told the cable news network.
“Airlines will no longer need to review the vaccination status of foreign nationals, confirm travelers have submitted their required information in ArriveCAN (a government mobile app) or ensure compliance with the pre-entry testing requirements,” he said.
However, Alghabra said wearing masks will continue to be strongly encouraged. Vaccine and testing requirements are also being lifted for cruise ship passengers and crews, he said.
The decision not to renew the restrictions expiring Sept. 30 removes “all COVID-19 border requirements for all travelers entering Canada,” the country’s minister of health, Jean-Yves Duclos, told CNN.
The government ministers credited Canada’s high COVID-19 vaccination rates for the move. Some 84% of Canadians are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, meaning they’ve had the initial one or two doses of an approved vaccine.
That’s compared to 67% of Americans who have received their initial vaccine doses, according to data compiled by The New York Times. And 64% of Canadians have gotten at least one COVID-19 booster shot, compared to 33% of Americans. Both countries recently authorized new, updated booster doses.
“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,” Duclos said, according to Reuters news service. He added that restrictions could be reinstated 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,” the health minister said.
Canada’s air carriers sought to stop mask mandates on flights, Reuters reported, due to thousands of incidents of noncompliance since the start of the year. The decision is expected to further boost Canada’s tourism industry, already on the rebound.
“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 to Reuters.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says noncitizens are still required to show proof they’re fully vaccinated against COVID-19 before boarding a plane to the United States. A federal judge in Florida struck down a nationwide mask mandate on public transportation, including airplanes, in April.