Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau reportedly signed off on dropping the border COVID-19 vaccine mandate at the center of weeks of the truckers’ protests and a subsequent government crackdown in the country’s capital city of Ottawa earlier this year.
The Canadian government announced on Monday that it will not be renewing the order that expires on Sept. 30 and, therefore, will remove all COVID-19 border requirements for all travelers entering Canada. That includes the removal of all federal testing, quarantine and isolation requirements, as well as the mandatory submission of health information.
“The government of Canada will maintain the ability to maintain certain border measures should they be required in the future to protect Canadians from … new variants of concern or other emerging public health threats,” Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos said, according to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.
“The removal of border measures has been facilitated by a number of factors, including 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,” the government said in a release.
The Associated Press reported on Thursday that Trudeau needed to give the final sign-off for dropping the vaccine requirement. This comes after a group of Members of Parliament and U.S.-Canada border city mayors last week sent a letter addressed to Trudeau and President Biden asking them to remove “unnecessary” border restrictions that have left them behind in post-pandemic economic recovery.
Canada, like the United States, requires foreign nationals to be vaccinated when entering the country. No change in the mandate is expected in the U.S. in the near term. Unvaccinated foreign travelers who are allowed to enter Canada are currently subject to mandatory arrival tests and a 14-day quarantine.
In February, what was dubbed a “Freedom Convoy” of truckers and supporters opposing the border vaccine mandate held space in Ottawa’s downtown area for weeks, drawing condemnation from Trudeau, who fled the capital due to a purported coronavirus case. Trudeau evoked emergency powers to cut off funding for the protesters until ordering the federal police to make arrests.
Removal of the vaccine mandate for non-citizens entering Canada means unvaccinated professional athletes like Major League Baseball players would be allowed to play in Toronto in the playoffs should the Blue Jays make the postseason. It would also apply to the National Basketball Association and the National Hockey League. Unvaccinated players are currently not allowed to cross the border.
Also Monday, the Canadian government said it will no longer require people to wear masks on planes to guard against COVID-19. Transport Canada said the existing rules for masks will come off Oct. 1. Canada is also ending random COVID-19 testing at airports, and filling out the information in what became an unpopular ArriveCan app blamed for delays will also no longer be required.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.