TORONTO — The Canadian government announced Monday it will no longer require people to wear masks on planes to guard against COVID-19.
Transport Canada said the existing rules for masks will come off Oct. 1
"We are able to do this because tens of millions of Canadians rolled up their sleeves and got vaccinated," Transport Minister Omar Alghabra said.
Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos said the negative attitudes of some passengers have made it hard for airlines and crews to enforce the mask mandate in recent months, and cited that as a factor in the decision.
Government officials also confirmed Canada is dropping the vaccine requirement for people entering the country at the end of the month. The Associated Press reported last week that was likely.
Canada, like the United States, requires foreign nationals to be vaccinated when entering the country. No change in the mandate is expected in the U.S. in the near term.
Unvaccinated foreign travelers who are allowed to enter Canada are currently subject to mandatory arrival tests and a 14-day quarantine.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's government has agreed to let a cabinet order enforcing mandatory COVID-19 vaccination requirements at the border expire Sept. 30.
The government is also ending random COVID-19 testing at airports. Filling out information in what became an unpopular ArriveCan app will also no longer be required. Some blamed it for delays at airports.
The government will also no longer be required passengers to have pre-board tests for cruise ships.
"The removal of border measures has been facilitated by a number of factors, including modelling that indicates that Canada has largely passed the peak of the Omicron BA.4- and BA.5-fuelled wave, Canada's high vaccination rates, lower hospitalization and death rates, as well as the availability and use of vaccine boosters (including new bivalent formulation), rapid tests, and treatments for COVID-19," the government said in a release.
Removal of the vaccine mandate for non-citizens entering Canada means unvaccinated professional athletes like Major League Baseball players would be allowed to play in Toronto in the playoffs should the Blue Jays make the postseason.
It would also apply to the National Basketball Association and the National Hockey League. Unvaccinated players are currently not allowed to cross the border into Canada.
The Public Health Agency of Canada still strongly recommends that people wear masks, particularly in crowded environments such as planes and trains.