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As COVID-19 restrictions are gradually eased, many Canadians are planning to travel this summer. Here’s what you need to know if you’re planning a trip.
What are the latest changes?
As of June 20, passengers no longer need to be fully vaccinated, with two doses of an approved COVID-19 vaccine or one of Johnson & Johnson’s, to board a plane or train in Canada.
The federal government is also lifting vaccination requirements for federally regulated workers, allowing airline and airport employees on unpaid leave due to their vaccination status to return to work.
Ottawa will bring back the mandates if the COVID-19 situation worsens, according to Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic LeBlanc.
Infectious disease specialist Dr. Isaac Bogoch said the “time is right” to end the travel mandates, because they no longer serve the intended purpose of preventing the transmission of COVID-19 in transportation.
What remains the same?
Vaccinated Canadians returning from abroad must still meet entry requirements, including using the ArriveCAN mobile app or desktop version to submit their travel and COVID-19 information within 72 hours of their arrival in Canada.
Those not vaccinated must still meet additional testing and quarantine requirements or face a fine of up to $5,000 or criminal prosecution.
Departing travelers must still comply with other countries’ entry rules, which for many countries, including the United States, include proof of vaccination.
Masks remain mandatory for those boarding planes or trains.
Vaccine mandates for cruise ship passengers and crew remain in place. Transport Minister Omar Alghabra said the decision was based on “the unique nature of cruise travel”, which includes passengers being in close contact with each other for an extended period of time.
Will this fix airport delays?
Some industry groups and politicians have blamed recent chaos at some Canadian airports on COVID-related border restrictions, while government officials say delayed or canceled flights and hours-long security lines are due to staff shortages.
LeBlanc said lifting the vaccine mandates will not immediately affect airport delays.
However, he and Alghabra said the government has taken steps to address the problems, including hiring more security personnel and adding more customs kiosks.
What about monkey pox?
Health officials are encouraging Canadians to take extra precautions, because of the potential threat of monkeypox, travel to 31 countries, including the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, Mexico, Spain and Germany. The “level two” warning, issued on June 7 by the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC), is one step below a recommendation to avoid non-essential travel.
It’s rare to see outbreaks of the virus outside West and Central Africa, but cases have sprung up around the world in recent weeks. At least 123 have been confirmed in Canada.
PHAC says anyone with symptoms or a diagnosis of monkeypox should delay travel and isolate. The virus is known to cause telltale skin lesions, but it often appears initially as a flu-like illness.
The agency says travelers may be subject to isolation or other measures to limit the spread of the virus upon arrival at their destination. It also warns that those going abroad could have limited access to adequate care if they fall ill and could face delays in returning home.
How do I protect myself?
Many precautions against COVID-19 are also effective against monkeypox, says nespirologist Dr. Samir Gupta, although the latter is spread more by direct contact than through the air.
“You really want to focus on preventing contact, washing your hands, even wearing gloves,” he told CBC News.
Still, wearing a mask is a good idea since some studies suggest the virus is able to spread through the air, he said.
PHAC recommends that travelers consult a health professional or visit a health clinic at least six weeks before their trip. It also says travelers can reduce their risk by being “especially vigilant” at any large parties or gatherings.
When will my passport be renewed?
Long lines have become common outside passport offices B.C to Montrealfor what Service Canada called an “unprecedented increase” in applications as travel reopens after two years of pandemic restrictions.
Some people had to reschedule trips because of the bottleneck.
Service Canada said it is added 600 new employees to help
All passport service counters reopened last month and more have been added at more than 300 centers.
According to projections since early June, 75 per cent of applicants should receive their passports within 40 business days, according to a spokesperson for Employment and Social Development Canada. Ninety-six percent of those who apply in person at a specialist center should receive theirs within 10 working days.