The Federal Government has announced that it will be suspending COVID-19 vaccine mandates for domestic and outbound international travellers and federally regulated workers.
The new rules will come into effect on June 20, and the President and CEO of the Regina Airport Authority, James Bogusz, said the announcement is great news.
“This is an incredible relief. There were literally tens of millions of unrealized economic activity just in our region alone,” he said. “Hundreds of millions when you consider the country, and this is a very important step to hopefully have our air sector able to rebound to full health.”
Bogusz said that one-fifth of eligible travellers in Saskatchewan could not get into a place due to the mandates, which affected their ability to return to pre-pandemic levels, which currently sit at 75 per cent.
“Those numbers were capped by almost 20 per cent of the eligible traveller base. We simply could not recover to full strength with the current restrictions,” he said. “The ability now for a Canadian to visit friends and family right across the country is going to drive increased passenger volumes. Given the propensity to travel in the last few months, and now that we are unleashing those final 1/5 of the population to travel, we expect this number to be incredible.”
He added that there still are some mandates and restrictions.
“If you are travelling to other countries, including the US, they are still requiring vaccination to enter the country, but you no longer need a COVID test prior to departure, so there are still some restrictions, but this is a massive improvement.”
Travel industry groups have blamed federal public health measures and mandates for slowdowns at airport customs that have contributed to long waits for passengers and forced flight delays and cancellations and have put increasing pressure on the government to do away with them.
Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic LeBlanc warned the government is prepared to “bring back” necessary policies if there’s a resurgence of the virus in the fall.
He also said that the decision to drop the federal mandate is not a response to the situation at Canada’s airports but is “based on science.”
“We don’t regret at all being cautious when it comes to a virus that has tragically killed tens of thousands of Canadians and millions of people around the world,” he said. “Acting prudently has saved lives.”
The Public Health Agency of Canada has reported a steadily declining number of COVID-19 cases. However, provinces no longer provide COVID-19 molecular tests for the general public, and federal reporting has become less regimented.
The vaccine mandate will also be lifted for domestic travellers on passenger trains and buses, allowing unvaccinated Canadians to move more freely around the country and federal workers who have been put on unpaid leave because of their vaccination status.
with files from Laura Osman / The Canadian Press