Canada to drop Covid border measures on Oct. 1

Wilfredo Lee/AP Photo

OTTAWA — Canada will end Covid measures at its border Oct. 1, but Prime Minister Justin Trudeau cautioned on Monday that doesn't signal the pandemic is over.

The federal government announced on Monday that, starting Saturday, incoming travelers to Canada won't have to test, quarantine, declare their vaccination status or use ArriveCAN, a digital tool at the center of political debate.

“We will remove all border requirements for travelers entering Canada,” Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos said on Parliament Hill.

The federal government will also end masking requirements on planes and trains.

Trudeau was asked if he, like U.S. President Joe Biden, wants to signal an end to the pandemic.

“Anyone who thinks the pandemic is over should visit our hospitals right now, where we still see the impact of people struggling with Covid-19,” Trudeau replied.

The prime minister said the decision to drop border restrictions was influenced by public health officials. “There is the sense that these border measures were no longer effective, or no longer justified,” he said.

The mandatory ArriveCAN app required individuals to upload vaccination credentials and other travel information before arriving in Canada. It was made mandatory under the Quarantine Act — measures set to expire Sept. 30.

Duclos said the government reserves the right to reestablish certain measures should they be required against new variants of concern or other threats.

Headline glitches: ArriveCan was blamed for the congestion in Canada’s airports over the summer, though investigations revealed a myriad of problems at play. The tool misfired in June and July, sending automatic messages that directed some 10,000 Apple users into quarantine.

In defense of ArriveCAN: In mid-August, amidst calls to “scrap the app,” Transport Minister Omar Alghabra was called to a summer meeting of the House transport committee. He told MPs that compliance rates among international arrivals was 99.5 percent.

In fact, he warned MPs, “If we suspend ArriveCAN today, it will add significant complications to the congestion we have at our airports.”

During the same meeting, Denis Vinette of the Travellers Branch at Canada Border Services Agency rejected accusations the app was behind border delays. “Without ArriveCAN, it would take a far greater time to process individuals than it currently takes,” he told MPs.

What’s next: The House international trade committee has initiated a study of the impacts of the app on certain sectors of the Canadian economy. On Tuesday, MPs will hear from senior officials from Customs and Immigration Union and Frontier Duty Free Association.

Canadian Deputy Health Minister Howard Njoo said Monday that vaccinations have changed “Canada’s scorecard.”

Still, Trudeau urged Canadians to stay on top of their shots. “The more people get up to date in their shots, the more resilient we will be as a country to any future waves of Covid,” he said.