No more masks, vaccine mandates or ArriveCAN for travelers

The problem-plagued ArriveCAN app has been the focus of criticism.

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The federal government is ending COVID-19 travel rules, including vaccination mandates, mandatory use of the ArriveCAN app, and masks for travelers on planes and trains, effective October 1.

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Some of the changes announced Monday have been long-requested.

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The problem-riddled ArriveCAN app has drawn criticism, including from tourism officials and businesses in border cities who have complained that it prevents travelers from coming to Canada.

Critics say it has been ineffective in stopping or significantly slowing the introduction of troubling variants of COVID-19.

The app has been prone to glitches, advising thousands of travelers to self-quarantine for 14 days when they didn’t have to, at any given time. Border mandates were also the focus of convoy occupation in Ottawa and protests elsewhere this year.

A report by four infectious disease, emergency and pandemic management doctors published last week concluded that Canada’s pandemic travel measures had been unsuccessful in significantly stopping the spread of worrying variants of COVID-19 in Canada. The report was released by Canada’s Travel and Tourism Roundtable, which has called for easing of pandemic border restrictions.

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Still, some health and travel experts criticize the decision to lift mask mandates on planes and trains at the start of what is expected to be a severe viral season.

Dr. Gerald Evans, an infectious disease specialist at Queen’s University and a member of Ontario’s now-dissolved COVID-19 Scientific Advisory Board, said it makes sense to end border controls.

“I think the disappearance of border controls is completely reasonable. I don’t think they are working in any way to have control over the broadcast.”

But Evans said that’s not true for mask mandates.

“We know that masking is effective in reducing transmission.”

Evans said he was surprised to see that the federal government’s announcement on border measures includes an end to mask mandates on planes, trains and buses crossing into Canada.

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“Getting rid of the masks seems to me to have nothing to do with border controls.”

Evans said that COVID-19, especially the highly transmissible Omicron variants, can spread easily in enclosed spaces, such as buses and trains. Airplanes, he said, have effective air filtration systems, which reduce the risk of transmission when in flight, but are not installed when on the ground.

“The worst thing about traveling by plane is the departure and departure lounge.”

He said he hopes many people will continue to wear masks when they travel.

Medical experts whose report was published last week noted that the mask mandates are inconsistent and targeted at the travel sector.

“The continued imposition of travel measures at the Canadian border is costly, illogical and inconsistent at this time,” said Dr. Dominik Mertz, associate professor, director of the division of infectious diseases at McMaster University.

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“While Canadians are free to attend concerts, sports, games and many other daily activities, the travel industry continues to be singled out without any scientific basis,” Mertz said.

Travel-related mask mandates are among the last such mandates in place in Canada.

In Ontario, the province still requires masks in nursing and long-term care homes, and hospitals have implemented their own mask mandates. Some universities and colleges also require masks. In other public spaces, the use of a mask is no longer mandatory.

The lifting of most mask mandates last spring was followed by a surge in COVID-19 cases fueled by Omicron.

As of last month, people are no longer required to isolate for five days after a COVID-19 infection in Ontario, but instead are asked to stay home for 24 hours after their symptoms improve and to use a mask for 10 days.

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Health officials, including Ottawa Medical Officer of Health Dr. Vera Etches, strongly recommend that people continue to wear masks indoors and in crowded outdoor spaces.

The federal ministers of health, transportation and public safety, who announced the removal of border and travel measures, also recommended that travelers continue to use high-quality, well-fitting masks on their trips.

Federal Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos said the border measures can be lifted, “thanks, in no small part, to Canadians who have rolled up their sleeves to get vaccinated.” He added that COVID-19 and other respiratory illnesses are expected to continue to circulate during the cold months “so I encourage everyone to keep up with their COVID-19 vaccination, including booster doses, and to exercise individual safety measures.” public health. ”

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