PM agrees to lift pandemic border measures, source says

The federal government has decided to drop the vaccination requirement for people entering Canada, end random COVID-19 testing at airports and make the use of the ArriveCan app optional by the end of this month, a senior government source told CBC News.

Earlier this week, sources told the CBC that Ottawa was leaning toward ending the measures but a final decision hadn’t been made because it was awaiting the approval of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

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The current COVID-19 Emergency Order-in-Council relating to border measures was set to expire on Sept. 30. The government had the option of extending the measures. The government is expected to make an official announcement on Monday, the source said.

The official spoke to CBC on condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to speak publicly on the matter.

The government has yet to decide if they will end the current masking requirements for passengers on plans and trains. That topic will be debated in cabinet later on Thursday.

Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino wouldn’t confirm that a decision had been made when speaking with reporters on Thursday evening. He said the government would follow the advice of public health experts.

On Tuesday, a group of MPs and border-city mayors published an open letter to Trudeau and US President Joe Biden asking them to end the “unnecessary” rules at the border, which they say would allow border communities to recover economically from the pandemic.

“When COVID-19 was at its peak and border measures were effective at slowing transmission rates, we did our part to keep Canadians and Americans safe,” the letter states. “Now, we have been left behind in the recovery effort as both countries have largely returned to normal daily life.”

Niagara Falls Mayor Jim Diodati, one of those who signed the letter, said he was grateful for the government’s decision but called it “long overdue.”

“I would like to see a grand re-opening of Canada event, with a massive ribbon cutting,” Diodati said in a statement to CBC.

The mayor of Niagara Falls, Jim Diodati, said the number of Americans visiting Niagara Falls this summer is down by half compared to the summer of 2019. (Darek Zdzienicki/CBC)

A number of travelers and tourism operators have been calling for an end to the pandemic measures, especially random testing.

The Tourism Industry Association of Canada said it was “heartened” by the news but added the government should still lift the masking requirement for air travellers.

“We have been unequivocal in calling on the federal government to lift all remaining COVID-19 restrictions on travel,” a statement from the organization said.

A spokesperson for the Frontier Duty Free Association, which represents dozens of private duty-free stores across the country, said the association was “thrilled” to learn the restrictions would be lifted.

“We can now get on the long road to recovery and we are very much looking forward to it after these very difficult times,” the statement said.

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