Regina airport welcomes news of border COVID testing to be dropped

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has agreed to let a cabinet order enforcing mandatory COVID-19 vaccination requirements at the Canadian border expire at the end of this month.

This is welcome news to James Bogusz, Regina International Airport president and CEO.

“For many weeks we have been working with other airports, airlines and a number of tourism agencies to suggest to the government it’s time to appeal all of these mandates,” Bogusz said.

The Canadian Airports Council said health measures for travel like random testing, mask mandates and vaccination requirements were no longer needed at this stage in the pandemic and should be removed to bring Canada’s tourism and travel industry back to a place of global competitiveness.

It’s been a difficult time the last couple of years at the airport with the ArriveCan issues as well as mandatory masking, but airports are saying it’s time to stop the mandates.

“We need to see this for the full recovery of aviation in Canada and we’re absolutely supportive of the removal of all restrictions,” Bogusz said.

The decision was confirmed by two senior government sources, who spoke to The Canadian Press on the condition they not be named because they were not authorized to speak publicly.

The change will also bring an end to COVID-19 border testing, which is currently mandatory for unvaccinated international travellers and random for those who are vaccinated.

Tourism Minister Randy Boissonnault would not confirm the decision Thursday afternoon, but he said if the order is allowed to expire, that would also eliminate the only mandatory component for the ArriveCan app.

“So the mandatory piece is the vaccine piece, and because that’s how people prove it through the ArriveCan, that’s how the order is written, from what I remember,” he said on his way into a cabinet meeting.

ArriveCan began as a way for travellers to report their vaccination status and provide pre-departure test results to the Canada Border Services Agency. But it has morphed into a digitized border arrival tool, and now people flying into certain airports can use it to fill out their customs and immigration form instead of the paper version.

The Canadian Airports Council said making the ArriveCan app optional for Canadian travellers while giving them the option for electronic advanced declaration will help travellers move faster through the border process.

Cabinet first ordered international travellers to be vaccinated against COVID-19 a year ago, and has renewed that order about every three months.

The latest version will expire Sept. 30 and will not be renewed.

The sources say the full cabinet does not need to sign off on a decision to let an existing order expire. One of them confirmed Trudeau has signed off on the plan.

The federal government is still deciding whether to maintain the requirement for passengers to wear face masks on trains and airplanes. That rule is not contained in the same cabinet order as the border vaccine requirement, but rather is a ministerial order given by the minister of Transport.

Bogusz said Regina’s airport has still not made a full recovery from the pandemic.

“Depending on what day of the week we see, we’ve seen travel volumes rebound anywhere between about 70 and 85 per cent of prepandemic levels,” Bogusz said. “We’ve had a fairly robust summer at about 75 per cent but we’d certainly like to see these remaining restrictions removed to ensure that we can have a robust and full recovery.”

More from 620 CKRM