The decision to let the current measures expire on Sept. 30 as planned was made Thursday, according to a senior government source. The federal government is still deciding whether to maintain the requirement for passengers to wear face masks on trains and airplanes and will be discussed at cabinet this afternoon, the source said.
Multiple government sources told Global News earlier this week the Liberal government was drafting plans to ease border restrictions.
A government source said Tuesday the plan still needed to be “finalized” by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau before it could be officially announced.
Trudeau was asked about the changes to the border rules on Wednesday and Friday, but both times the prime minister did not confirm any decision had been made.
Until now, foreign nationals were typically not allowed to travel to Canada unless they had completed a primary series of an approved COVID-19 vaccine, unless they qualified for an exception. The current border measures were 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 were still subject to random testing and quarantine requirements.
The United States still requires vaccination for entry, but it is not yet known if it will follow suit and drop its border mandate like Canada. The White House has not commented on any changes to the requirement.
Ottawa 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 (PHAC) 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.
On Tuesday, several 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 and 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.”