Canada dropping COVID border rules Saturday

Welcome to the Canadian province of Quebec, just over the Vermont border. (News photo — Andy Flynn)

Starting Saturday, Oct. 1, people entering Canada by plane, train or automobile will no longer face COVID-19 testing or vaccination requirements or restrictions.

The Canadian government officially announced on Monday, Sept. 26 that it would drop all COVID-19-related border crossing restrictions this weekend.

Starting Oct. 1, people entering Canada — regardless of their vaccination status — won’t have to provide proof of vaccination or submit their health information with the ArriveCAN app. Canada is also dropping all COVID-19 testing, quarantining and monitoring requirements.

Also, Canada is expected to drop its pandemic-related traveling measures. People in Canada will no longer have to undergo health screenings for air or rail travel or wear a mask while using public transportation. However, the Canadian government is still “strongly” recommending that people wear masks on public transportation, according to the government’s website. COVID-19 restrictions are also being lifted for Canadian cruises.

The government of Canada attributes the removal of these restrictions to the country’s high vaccination rates, low death and hospitalization rates, indications that the country has moved past the peak of the BA.4 and BA.5 COVID-19 variants, and the common availability of COVID-19 booster shots, tests and treatments.

The U.S.-Canada border closed completely at the start of pandemic-related lockdowns in March 2020. While Canada opened its border to vaccinated travelers in August 2021, the U.S. didn’t open its border to vaccinated travelers until November 2021. North Country leaders are now hoping the U.S. will follow Canada’s lead and drop all of its pandemic-related restrictions at the northern border, but the federal government has yet to make an announcement on whether or not it plans to lift its restrictions.

Assemblyman Billy Jones, D-Chateaugay, sits on the Council Of State Governments’ U.S.-Canada Relations Committee. He said there hasn’t been discussion among the committee about the U.S. dropping its COVID-19 border restrictions — he said the committee’s main focus has been to make ArriveCAN “go away” and encourage Canadian day travelers’ return to the U.S. — but he thinks the committee should “look into it.” He said that while the committee has focused on getting Canada to drop its pandemic-related border restrictions, it seems like the U.S. is the one that’s always “lagging behind” Canada with updating its border rules.

“Certainly I think we should look into it and take a more aggressive approach on how we do these things,” Jones said. “We should look at reciprocating with our neighbors, for sure.”

Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-Schuylerville, who’s supported dropping ArriveCAN and vaccine requirements since they were put in place, also spoke out in favor of the U.S. dropping its restrictions on Monday.

“Our Northern Border communities have suffered enough from the prolonged closure and restriction to travel, and there is no more reason to delay full restoration of travel,” Stefanik said in a statement.

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