Government relaxes some COVID-19 travel measures, but does not wear masks on planes

The federal government is ending some COVID-19 border measures for travelers arriving in Canada – but senior public health officials have said the government is not moving on masking on planes and vaccination mandates for inner journeys.

In a Friday press release, the government has announced that public health measures will be relaxed for certain eligible travelers from Monday, April 25.

Fully vaccinated travelers will no longer be required to provide a quarantine plan upon entry, and unvaccinated or partially vaccinated children between the ages of 5 and 11 who are accompanied by a fully vaccinated parent or guardian will no longer have more to undergo a COVID-19 test to enter Canada.

“The health and safety of Canadians remains our top priority and as immunization levels and health system capacity improve, we will continue to consider further relaxation of border measures based on science.” , Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos said in the statement.

A number of other measures will also be removed next week. The government will no longer require fully vaccinated travelers to mask in public spaces for 14 days after arrival, or maintain a list of close contacts and places visited.

But while the government is withdrawing some measures, it remains firm on others, such as mandatory masking on planes and trains.

“While some restrictions may be relaxed, air and rail travelers are reminded that they are still required to wear a mask throughout their journey,” Transport Minister Omar Alghabra said in the statement.

“Wearing a mask provides an extra layer of protection for you and your traveling companions, and will help keep Canadians, workers and our transportation system safe.”

WATCH | Public health officials say mask mandates will stay in place for travel

Public health officials say mask mandates will stay in place for travel

Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam said officials will continue to monitor the pandemic and mask mandates will remain in place for travel for the time being. 1:07

In a COVID-19 update on Friday, Canada’s chief public health officer, Dr. Theresa Tam, said she approves of keeping the masking requirement for planes — at least for the moment.

Although masks can be inconvenient, she said, they provide an extra layer of protection during travel and do not restrict movement.

“If you’re going to be traveling with people in a certain environment, I think it’s prudent to continue to require mask-wearing,” she said.

“So I think it’s one of the less intrusive measures, but definitely adds another layer of protection.”

The government also has no plans to end vaccination mandates for travellers.

Deputy Chief Public Health Officer Dr Howard Njoo said vaccination remains the best protection against the virus.

“At the end of the day, I think everyone agrees that vaccines remain our main tool, a major layer of protection,” he said.

LOOK | Njoo discusses easing pandemic travel restrictions

Njoo discusses easing pandemic travel restrictions

Canada’s deputy chief public health officer, Dr Howard Njoo, says vaccines are still essential for being able to travel during the COVID-19 pandemic. 1:36

Njoo also said that while some border measures are being relaxed, it is important to maintain the infrastructure that has helped health officials test and screen travelers for the virus.

“[If] COVID-19 is getting worse and we need to readjust and go back to a different diet, maybe similar to what we might have had before, we are ready to do that,” he said.

The United States government today extended a rule that non-U.S. citizens crossing land or ferry terminals at the Canada-U.S. border must be vaccinated against COVID-19.

Hospitalization rate looks manageable, says Tam

Tam said that while there have been signs of COVID-19 approaching a peak in some jurisdictions across Canada ahead of the Easter holiday, the virulence of the Omicron variant creates uncertainty.

“It’s still too early to tell if our long weekend activities could lead to another bump to come,” she said.

While Tam says there has been an increase in hospitalizations, serious cases are still relatively rare.

“Although concerning, the recent increase in hospitalization rates in several jurisdictions appears to be manageable, with critical care still trending at low levels,” she said.

“We remain hopeful that the increase in transmission rates over the past few weeks will not have such a heavy impact on hospitalization trends as in previous waves.”