Trudeau agrees to end COVID vaccine border rule, mandatory access can be used

The federal government is still deciding whether to keep the requirement for passengers to wear face masks on trains and planes

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OTTAWA – Canada’s latest COVID-19 border restrictions will disappear at the end of this month as a cabinet order affecting mandatory vaccinations, testing and quarantine for international travelers expires.

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This expiration also marks the end of the insistence that travelers use the ArriveCan app to enter vaccine status and test results, even though the app will live on as an optional tool for customs and immigration.

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It has not yet addressed whether passengers must wear masks on domestic and international trains and planes because this rule is contained in a separate order issued by the Minister of Transport.

Two senior government sources familiar with the decision confirmed that the cabinet order to keep COVID-19 border measures in place will not be renewed when they expire on September 30.

The sources spoke to the Canadian Press on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to speak publicly. And while the Liberal Cabinet met on Thursday afternoon, Cabinet approval is not required to allow the order to expire.

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One source said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, before the cabinet meeting, had agreed to the decision not to renew the rules.

The change means that international travelers will no longer have to prove they are fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Under the current rule, Canadians returning to the country who have not been vaccinated must show a negative COVID-19 test result before arrival, and undergo further testing after arrival. They must also self-quarantine for 14 days.

Foreigners who have not been vaccinated are simply prohibited from entering Canada unless they fall into certain categories, such as airlines or boat crew members, those requiring basic medical treatment, diplomats and temporary foreign workers.

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The Cabinet order also states that vaccinated travelers will be selected for random testing for COVID-19, and requires travelers to electronically submit proof of their vaccine and test results.

The only way to do that is through the ArriveCan app.

It will all end when the clock strikes midnight on October 1st.

Tourism Minister Randy Poissonault would not confirm the decision on Thursday afternoon, but said that if the order were allowed to expire, it would also scrap the only mandatory component of the ArriveCan app.

“So the obligatory piece is the vaccine piece, and because that’s how people install it through ArriveCan, that’s how the command is written, from what I remember,” he said on his way to the cabinet meeting.

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ArriveCan has turned into a digital tool for cross-border access, and now people who fly to certain airports can use it to fill out a customs and immigration form instead of a paper copy.

Boissonnault said this is in line with the digitization of border forms in a number of countries, including Europe, and in the long run will lead to faster and smoother border experiences.

“If we want to go from 22 million visitors in 2019, to nearly 30 million by 2030, we are going to have to have digital borders,” he said.

The order’s expiration also means that the health secretary will not be able to prevent citizens of certain countries experiencing a rapid COVID-19 outbreak from coming to Canada. This measure has been used to ban people from India and some African countries at various points, moves that have been criticized by some as racist.

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Canada’s COVID-19 border measures have been evolving since the pandemic began in March 2020.

For more than a year, Canada has invoked a mandatory 14-day quarantine for all returning Canadians, a period of time required to complete or partially quarantine at certain hotels.

Between March 2020 and August 2021, foreign nationals were unable to enter the Canada period with some exemptions for critical workers including airline crew, health workers and truck drivers.

In July 2021, once all Canadian adults and teens could get their vaccinations, the government stopped requiring fully vaccinated Canadian travelers to be quarantined.

In August 2021 they opened the borders to fully vaccinated Americans, and in September 2021 the borders were opened to fully vaccinated citizens of all countries.

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Border measures have become deeply politicized, with Conservatives calling for Trudeau to lift them all, and leader Pierre Boliever made ending them a key policy in his latest leadership campaign.

Conservative deputy leader Melissa Lantzmann and Quebec lieutenant Pierre Paul Hoss said in a joint statement Wednesday that it was comforting to end the proceedings within weeks of Boelivry winning the leadership.

“Since its introduction, the ArriveCan app has killed jobs, choked economies across the country, and told visitors they are not welcome in Canada,” they said. “Combined with unscientific vaccine mandates and mandatory random testing, ArriveCan has created the longest delays ever seen at Canadian airports.”

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Delays at airports were partly blamed on ArriveCan, as some travelers who struggled to get it working, couldn’t, or couldn’t use it, backed up lines. However, the delays were also blamed on a labor shortage that affected everything from airport workers to security and border guards.

Dr. Zain, an infectious disease specialist, has been arguing against mandatory vaccinations and testing at the border for months. In an interview on Thursday, he said testing asymptomatic travelers at the border is as costly and unhelpful as testing people who show symptoms in the community.

Without testing everyone, he said, the policy will not prevent further spread of COVID-19.

The government has long referred to random testing as a way to check the arrival of new variants, but one concern said there are also better and more convenient ways to look for them as well.

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