(The Hill) — Canada is lifting its testing, quarantine and vaccination requirements at the border, a step in rolling back pandemic restrictions designed to stave off the spread of COVID-19, the government announced Monday.
Starting on Saturday, international travelers will be able to enter Canada without providing proof of vaccination, taking a pre-arrival test or undergoing quarantine, according to a government release. Compulsory masking on domestic planes and trains will also end, as will a longstanding requirement to share health information with the Canadian government via its ArriveCAN application prior to entry.
The move comes as many countries attempt to ease out of the strict restrictions put in place during the COVID-19 pandemic even as the virus continues to circulate.
“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,” Canada’s Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos said in a statement.
“However, we expect COVID-19 and other respiratory viruses will continue to circulate over the cold months, so I encourage everyone to stay up-to-date with their COVID-19 vaccination, including booster doses and exercise individual public health measures.”
The government cited high vaccination rates, low hospitalization and death rates and the availability of booster vaccinations, including the new bivalent booster targeted at the omicron variant, as reasons for the eased restrictions.
Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino said that “COVID-19 border measures were always meant to be temporary” and that Canada is “making adjustments based on the current situation.”
A group of Canadian members of Parliament and border-city mayors last week issued a letter urging Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and President Biden to ease the border restrictions, according to CBC News.
Trudeau agreed to drop the vaccine requirement for international travelers last week. It will now expire with the other pandemic restrictions on Friday.
The U.S. has been making similar moves to roll back pandemic protections at both state and federal levels. The vaccination requirement for international travelers entering the country is still in place.
Biden earlier this month came under fire for saying the COVID-19 pandemic is “over,” and later clarified that “it basically is not where it was.”
The head of the World Health Organization recently said the end of the pandemic “is in sight,” but noted that “we are not there yet.”