Trudeau government considering end to COVID-19 vaccination mandate at border and random testing: sources

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The federal government is considering turning the page on pandemic-era restrictions by eliminating COVID-19 vaccination mandates at the border and random testing requirements, the Star has learned.

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his cabinet have yet to make a final decision, but multiple sources have confirmed that ministers will soon look into a move that could also spell the end of the unpopular ArriveCAN app.

This would mean that unvaccinated foreigners would once again be allowed to visit Canada. Unvaccinated Canadians can also now face fines of up to $5,000 if they cannot show a negative COVID-19 test or evidence of a previous positive infection before entering the country, and are no longer required to quarantine at home for 14 days. will not withstand, and be subject to testing upon arrival.

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The government is also considering abolishing mandatory random testing for vaccinated travelers. The practice was temporarily suspended on June 11, before being reinstated on July 19, and is now being carried out outside airports, through virtual appointments and testing kits at home or in person at some pharmacies .

As recently as this summer, the federal government stressed that “testing to track the importation of the COVID-19 virus into Canada and to identify new forms of concern was and remains an important part of our surveillance program.” Is.” The provinces pointed to Ottawa’s continued border testing as they curbed their own testing.

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Data from the Public Health Agency of Canada shows that the test positivity rate increased from early June to mid-July among unvaccinated travelers (3.7 percent to seven percent), but the agency has not published any figures because all The test was taken off-site. It said the data is “undergoing quality control checks.”

Over the summer, government-mandated Canadian travellers became frustrated with the added burden of uploading their proof of vaccinations, travel details and quarantine plans to the ArrivCan app.

The union representing guards at the Canada Border Services Agency asked Ottawa to scrap the app, saying its officers were giving people too much time filling out their forms instead of focusing on their customs work. . Niagara Falls Mayor Jim Diodati said the app was causing unnecessary delays at the border and killing tourism. Even the Canadian American Business Council launched public relations campaign To encourage the federal government to abandon the app, saying it fears the border will be rough.

Their voices were joined by Conservative lawmakers who have called on the Liberal government to change course for months. In his acceptance speech on Saturday, newly minted Conservative leader Pierre Poiliver earned his loudest cheer of the night by shutting down the “disastrous Arrivcan” app.

Recently, from September 1, the government was promoting the app. It lauded the fact that travelers can use it to submit their customs and immigration declarations prior to arrival at airports in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver, and announced that the facility would be rolled out to seven more in the coming weeks. will be extended to the passengers.

Now, with increasing pressure – both from their own caucuses and the bureaucracy – to dismantle rules viewed as outdated and unnecessary, liberals are preparing to end a divisive chapter.

Sources within the government say the liberals are following what they said they would do: continually reevaluate the threat environment and change course when new information is needed.

Although hundreds of people are still dying from COVID-19 each week – 217 between September 4 and 10 – the risks are low, more treatment options are available, vaccines and boosters have made a big difference and hospitalization rates are low. is seen. ,

This will be a “natural evolution of our policies”, a source said.

On June 20, the government “suspended” the vaccination requirement for all passengers on planes and trains, as well as for federal government employees. Those mandates were the source of much anger during the 2021 election campaign, and helped mobilize frustration against the Liberal government this winter, culminating in the capture of the capital by so-called “freedom convoys”.

At the time of the June announcement, Transport Minister Omar Alghabara and Treasury Board Chairman Mona Fortier pointed to the success of the government’s vaccination mandate, saying they protected the health of Canadians and mitigated the full effects of the virus.

Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos, however, gave a more cautious note, saying the government did not know what it would face this fall and that everyone should be prudent and up to date with their vaccinations and booster doses.

The Public Health Agency of Canada reports that between April 14, 2020 and September 8, 2022, at least 18,404 fines were issued for offenses related to COVID-19, such as refusing to go to government-approved quarantine housing Arriving without a valid pre-entry test, denial of arrival test and violating quarantine.

Althea Raj is an Ottawa-based national politics columnist for STAR. Follow him on Twitter: @althiraj

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Source: www.thestar.com

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