Feds set to drop ArriveCan app, ease other COVID-19 border restrictions within weeks: Sources
Published Tuesday, September 20, 2022 5:50PM EDT
Last Updated Tuesday, September 20, 2022 11:29PM EDT
The federal government is poised to ease COVID-19 restrictions at the border, including vaccination requirements, random COVID-19 testing and mandatory use of the ArriveCan app.
The move is expected to come by the end of September, sources told CTV News.
The vaccination requirement was dropped for Canadians travelling by plane or train in June, but remains in place for foreign nationals entering Canada.
It is not yet clear exactly how the government will change the rules.
The expected changes come following months of complaints from those in the travel and tourism industries who have said the restrictions are hampering business.
In a statement to CP24 Tuesday night, Health Canada said “there have been no decisions made” with regards to border measures which are set to expire on Sept. 30.
The agency said that any future easing or modification of border restrictions in Canada “would be informed by the best practices, latest scientific evidence, data and domestic and international epidemiological situation and in close consultation with our provincial, territorial and international partners, including industry stakeholders.”
Health Canada also said the government has taken a “comprehensive, layered approach to border management” and that those measures have helped “in the detection and surveillance of COVID-19 and slowing the spread of the virus.”
Canada’s COVID-19 border restrictions have shifted as the pandemic has evolved over the past two years or so. At one point travellers from a list of high-risk countries were barred from entering the country. For a time the federal government also required some travellers to stay at quarantine hotels until testing negative.
While some of the measures were viewed as sensible in the face of a virus there were once no defences against, some of the restrictions have also been viewed as political at times, especially during difficult waves of the virus when the provinces sometimes blamed an increase in cases on lax border measures.
Travel today is much simpler by comparison, but airports and airlines have been plagued by lengthy delays and problems for customers as they return to normal travel volumes. Critics have flagged some of the remaining border measures as one area where the government could reduce some of the delays, especially given high rates of vaccination in the country.
Speaking with CP24 Tuesday morning, infectious disease specialist Dr. Isaac Bogoch cautioned that while Canada has done better than many other countries in terms of managing the virus, the pandemic is not yet over and is still having a significant impact on a global scale.
“I think there's a lot of semantics here. I mean, we often have talked about what's a pandemic and what's endemic,” Bogoch said. “But we should take a step back and acknowledge that every single day around the world, people are still dying in the thousands.”
He said it is a mistake to think of the pandemic as a regional phenomenon rather than a global one and said there is much more that can be done to help prevent deaths around the world. The most important step that Canadians can take, he said, is to get vaccinated whenever eligible.
“We still have room for improvement and there are rather easy ways that we can reduce suffering in Canada by taking those steps,” he said. “I think the most impactful one would be to get vaccines into those vulnerable, vulnerable communities and high-risk individuals and we can do that. We've done it before with the first and second wave of vaccine rollout. We certainly can do it again.”
In Ontario, a bivalent vaccine which also targets the Omicron variant is set to become available to all adults 18 and over as of Sept. 26. It is already available to those 70 and up, as well as to certain groups and immunocompromised individuals.
- With files from CTV News