Canada to drop vaccination mandate, mask requirements for professional athletes and visitors

TORONTO — The Canadian government confirmed on Monday that non-citizens entering the country — including professional athletes — will no longer be required to get a COVID-19 vaccine starting in October.

The Associated Press reported last week that the decision was imminent.

Removing the vaccination mandate means unvaccinated Major League Baseball players would be allowed to play in Toronto in the playoffs if the Blue Jays qualified for the playoffs.

This would also apply to the National Basketball Association and the National Hockey League. Unvaccinated players are currently not allowed to cross the border into Canada.

Unvaccinated foreign travelers who are permitted to enter Canada are currently subject to mandatory on-arrival testing and a 14-day quarantine.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government agreed to allow a cabinet order imposing mandatory COVID-19 vaccination requirements at the border to expire on Friday.

Canada also announced that starting Saturday it will no longer require people to wear masks on planes to guard against COVID-19.

“We are able to do this because tens of millions of Canadians have rolled up their sleeves and gotten vaccinated,” said Transport Minister Omar Alghabra.

Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos said negative attitudes from some passengers have made it difficult for airlines and crews to enforce the mask mandate in recent months, and cited this as a factor in the decision.

The government is also ending random COVID-19 testing at airports. And there will be no need to fill in information in what has become an unpopular ArriveCan app. Some blamed him for delays at airports.

Travelers will also no longer be required to take pre-boarding tests for cruise ships.

“The removal of border measures was facilitated by a number of factors, including modeling that indicates Canada is well past the peak of the wave fueled by Omicron BA.4 and BA.5, high vaccination rates from Canada, the decline in hospitalizations and deaths as well as the availability and use of vaccine boosters (including a new bivalent formulation), rapid tests and treatments for COVID-19,” the government said in a statement. .

The Public Health Agency of Canada still strongly recommends people wear masks, especially in crowded environments like planes and trains.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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