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Canada removes Covid-19 curbs from Oct 1

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Canada announced Monday that it would remove all remaining coronavirus entry restrictions, including testing and quarantine requirements, effective Oct. 1, ending some of the world’s longest and most stringent rules.

Travelers, regardless of citizenship status, will no longer have to submit public health information, proof of vaccination, and coronavirus test results before or after arrival or be subject to random PCR testing, the Public Health Agency of Canada said. The country is also removing its requirement to wear masks while on planes and trains.

“Thanks largely to Canadians who have rolled up their sleeves to get vaccinated, we have reached the point where we can safely lift the sanitary measures at the border,” Jean-Yves Duclos, the minister of health, said in a statement.

Canada boasts one of the highest COVID-19 vaccination rates in the world, with 84% of its population fully vaccinated against the virus; about 50% have received a booster. In the United States, by comparison, only 68% of the population is fully vaccinated, and 33% have received a booster.

Omar Alghabra, Canada’s minister of transport, said in the same statement that border measures “were always meant to be temporary,” adding: “We are making adjustments based on the current situation because that’s what Canadians expect.”

The decision comes 2 1/2 years after the United States, Canada, and Mexico decided to close their borders to contain COVID’s rapid spread.

As the virus continued to pummel the world, temporary restrictions on crossing the U.S.-Canada border were extended until Aug. 9, 2021, when Canada first opened its borders to fully vaccinated Americans. Canada then opened more broadly to vaccinated travelers from other countries.

That October, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, the Liberal Party leader, made vaccination a requirement for air and rail passengers, as well as for federal government workers, including members of the military and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, a move that fueled backlash from the Conservative Party in Canada.

In February of this year, a large group of truckers paralyzed the center of Ottawa, Ontario, the Canadian capital, for weeks with demonstrations that began as a rally against vaccine mandates.

By April of this year, as infections began to drop and vaccination rates remained high, Canada dropped the requirement that fully vaccinated travelers show proof of a recent negative coronavirus test to enter the country. However, air travelers were still being randomly selected to take a PCR test upon arrival at airports.

While Canada is still contending with the latest omicron subvariant, it authorized earlier this month its first omicron-adapted vaccine for adults, made by Moderna.

In his statement, Duclos said the government expects COVID-19 and other respiratory viruses “will continue to circulate over the cold months” and encouraged Canadians and visitors to stay up-to-date on their COVID-19 vaccinations and boosters “and exercise individual public health measures.”

In the United States, all foreign travelers must still be fully vaccinated and provide proof of vaccination, including travelers from Canada. Rep. Brian Higgins of New York, a Democrat whose district includes Buffalo and Niagara Falls, encouraged the United States to follow Canada’s lead.

“It has been two and a half long years of border restrictions between the United States and Canada,” he said in a statement. “The extended measures have kept loved ones apart and kept border communities from reaching full economic recovery. The end of restrictions is overdue. Canada’s decision is the right one. The U.S. should follow immediately.”

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.

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