OTTAWA – The Canadian government is ending COVID-19 vaccination mandates for outbound domestic and international travelers and federally regulated workers, sources say.
Chief Government Whip Steven MacKinnon confirmed there would be an announcement to change government policy on Tuesday afternoon.
The government is facing growing pressure from tourism and travel associations to scrap vaccination mandates to help ease the chaos that has erupted at Canada’s airports and align rules with health measures provincial public.
The new rules are set to come into effect on June 20, although requirements for foreign nationals coming to Canada will not change, say two government sources familiar with the decision, who were granted anonymity to speak about matters they do not know. were not allowed to discuss publicly. .
Travel industry groups have blamed federal public health measures for slowdowns at airport customs that have contributed to long waits for passengers and forced flight delays and cancellations.
MacKinnon credited falling case numbers as the reason for “relaxing” the rules and said warrants were simply going to be “suspended.”
“They could come back. The pandemic is not over,” he said.
The Public Health Agency of Canada has reported a steady decline in the number of COVID-19 cases, although provinces no longer provide molecular COVID-19 testing to the general public and federal reporting has become less regulated.
The government announced last week that it would suspend random testing at airports for vaccinated travellers, with plans to move testing offsite by next month. But after that announcement, the Canadian Travel and Tourism Roundtable called on the government to go further and end vaccination mandates for travelers and staff at Canada’s airports.
The vaccination mandate will also be lifted for domestic travelers on passenger trains and buses, allowing unvaccinated Canadians to move more freely across the country.
The change will also affect federal workers who have been placed on unpaid leave due to their vaccination status.
The government has not revealed how many employees have been furloughed, but reports that 98.5% of civil servants are fully vaccinated with two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine.
The Public Service Alliance of Canada filed a policy grievance against the government earlier this year on behalf of those furloughed as well as public servants who work from home but still needed to be vaccinated or risk losing their pay. Several other public sector unions have issued similar challenges.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau first issued vaccination mandates for federal workers and domestic travelers during the summer election, before the Omicron wave hit Canada hard.
The government has made no secret that it hopes the mandates will pressure Canadians to get vaccinated, saying the move was necessary to protect the public from serious illness and transmission of the virus.
After the Omicron variant overwhelmed the country, opposition members and some experts began to question the effectiveness of the mandate, as Omicron was still transmissible among people considered fully inoculated.
However, some public health experts have called on the government to add a third dose to the vaccine’s mandate to protect against serious illnesses.
“Two doses are not enough to ensure vaccine efficacy against Omicron infection,” public health official Dr. Theresa Tam said during a Friday briefing.
While more than 89% of Canadians over the age of 12 have received at least two doses of an approved COVID-19 vaccine, only about 55% have received a booster shot.
Tam said political decisions about vaccination mandates are made by the cabinet, and she provided data to back up their decisions.
“But that’s not the only information employers or relevant ministers need to take into account,” she said.