By Vanni Gibertini
Canada Ends Restrictions for Unvaccinated Travelers, Mask Mandate
It has been almost two and a half years since the Covid-19 pandemic devastated the air transport industry, forcing airlines to slash their schedules and inducing governments to introduce strict restrictions on passengers’ mobility. While some countries started to progressively relax restrictions months ago, some governments have decided to take a more prudent approach keeping in place some of the new norms that had been introduced during the peak of the infection waves.
Last Monday, the Canadian government announced in a press release that all restrictions to international mobility that are still in place will not be extended beyond their current expiration date of Sept. 30, effectively restoring the situation that was in place until March 2020, before the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic.
As of Oct. 1, all travelers, 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 in Canada.
Canada had so far allowed only vaccinated foreigners to enter the country and was imposing a 14-day quarantine on its unvaccinated citizens returning from an international trip. Furthermore, it was sample-testing international passengers entering Canada at one of its main points of entry, imposing 5-day isolation to those who tested positive. This was making some visitors, especially Americans, very reluctant to travel North of the border because of the possible risk of being stuck in a hotel room for five days with all the consequent disruptions to their plans.
The Government has also decided to scrap the very controversial ArriveCAN app, a cell phone application that international travelers wishing to enter Canada had to use to provide advance information to the Canada Border Services Agency before their arrival in the country. Unclear instructions, technical problems and a general difficulty to use this type of tool on behalf of older travelers caused numerous delays and long lines at airports and road crossings when traffic flows started to rebound, causing the general public to resent the solution and ask for its demise.
Transport Canada is also removing existing travel requirements. 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.
Canadian carriers obviously welcomed the decision and expressed their satisfaction with the removal of the mandates.
“Air Canada welcomes the removal of these restrictions, acknowledging that air travel is safe and that the measures were not justified by science. We believe it will greatly facilitate travel, help stabilize the country’s air transport sector and support Canada’s economy. Customers and crew will still have the option to wear masks and we also encourage customers to monitor their own health to be sure they feel well and fit to travel,” said Craig Landry, Executive Vice-President and Chief Operating Officer at Air Canada in a statement.
But the country’s biggest carrier also took the opportunity to encourage the government to do more for aviation and reform the air transportation system in Canada.
“While today’s announcement is a positive step, we urge the government not to lose momentum. Lessons learned during the pandemic should now be applied to streamlining the air transport system in Canada and to enact further reforms,” the statement read. “This includes improving processes, such as security and customs at airports, developing new trusted traveler programs, deploying new technologies and, more fundamentally, re-examining the user-pay model that finances air transportation in Canada, whose weaknesses and interdependencies were exposed by Covid.”
Unlike their counterpart in the U.S., airlines in Canada did not benefit from any kind of government subsidies during the difficult months of the pandemic when they had to ground most of their fleets and layoff most of their staff – they could rely on support funding that was made available to all businesses, but no air transport-specific program was launched. In addition to that, Canada is one of the few countries where the air transportation system is not seen as a strategic infrastructure for the country, and the cost of it is almost entirely paid by passengers.