The Canadian government is preparing to drop the COVID-19 vaccine mandate at the border by the end of September, multiple government sources have told Global News.
Global News has also confirmed that use of the controversial ArriveCAN app to provide vaccination information to border officials would become optional once the restrictions are lifted.
However, the source said the plan still needs to be “finalized” by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau before it can be officially announced.
A spokesperson for Transport Canada referred questions about the decision to the Public Health Agency of Canada, which told Global News late Tuesday that “there have been no decisions made” in regard to the existing health order.
Under the current rules, foreign nationals are typically not allowed to travel to Canada unless they have completed a primary series of an approved COVID-19 vaccine, unless they qualify for an exception.
The current border measures are set to expire on Sept. 30 after being extended in late June.
At that time, the government lifted the vaccine requirement for domestic and outbound travellers but kept it for inbound travellers. Unvaccinated travellers are still subject to random testing and quarantine requirements.
Vaccinated travellers may also be selected for mandatory random testing — a system that public health officials have used as an “early warning system” for new variants of the virus entering the country.
Travellers are required to use the ArriveCAN app for providing vaccination details, as well as quarantine plans and other required information.
The U.S. still requires vaccination for entry, but it is not yet known if it will follow suit and drop its border mandate at the same time as Canada. The White House has not commented on any changes to the requirement.
The federal government has gradually scaled back COVID-19 travel restrictions over the course of the spring and summer, as booster shots became more widely available in Canada.
Public health officials and infectious disease experts have warned of a potentially large wave of new COVID-19 cases this fall. Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic LeBlanc warned in June that COVID-19 vaccinations could become a requirement again if the country sees another surge.
But the Public Health Agency of Canada has also said the country is transitioning to a new, more sustainable phase of the pandemic, and provinces and territories have lifted most, if not all, of their own restrictions.
Earlier on Tuesday, a group of mayors and town representatives for communities on both sides of the Canada-U.S. border released an open letter calling on Trudeau and U.S. President Joe Biden to lift all remaining COVID-19 entry restrictions.
The letter, which was also signed by a group of Conservative MPs along with New Democrat MP Brian Masse, argued border communities have been “left behind in the recovery effort” and are being hurt economically by the restrictions.
“While life returns to normal everywhere else, your government regulations have prevented us from resuming our way of life and economic base,” the letter states.
It adds mayors and representatives have independently consulted with health professionals and determined the current measures are “no longer meaningful or helpful and only serve to harm border communities and border community businesses.”
—With files from Global’s Mercedes Stephenson and the Canadian Press