The Canadian government on Tuesday withdrew the majority of its Covid-19 vaccine mandates after criticism that the restrictions were causing hours-long delays at airports and creating a group of second class citizens.
“The suspension of the vaccine mandate was informed by key indicators, including the epidemiological situation and modelling vaccine science and high levels of vaccination against Covid-19 in Canada,” said Omar Alghabra, minister of transport, according to Global News.
The relaxations allow the lifting of the vaccination requirement to travel domestically and internationally by trains or planes in Canada from June 20. However, passengers will still be required to wear masks on board, and those travelling to Canada will continue to be subject of vaccination requirements for entry into country.
Federal employees who were suspended for not getting vaccinated will also be allowed to return to work .
“With the suspension of vaccination requirements, employees placed on unpaid leave may return to work. The government and other employers will ensure that these employees can resume their duties as seamlessly as possible,” the government said in a statement.
Ottawa’s move came after increasing pressure and protests from federal unions and transport groups. However, the government warned that the mandates could return should a need arise.
“This could include an up-to-date vaccination mandate at the border, the reimposition of public service and transport vaccination mandates, and the introduction of vaccination mandates in federally regulated workplaces in the fall, if needed,” it said.
Surprisingly, vaccine mandates on cross-border trucking with the United States were not lifted despite it being a contentious issue. Opposition to the mandate gave rise to the Freedom Convoy movement in February and its subsequent occupation of Ottawa. The protest only ended after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau took the extreme measure of imposing an emergency, which was withdrawn after nine days. The move that was panned for being draconian is being examined in ongoing House committee hearings.
The policy changes come two days after Trudeau tested positive for the virus for a second time this year, days after he travelled to the US and met with US President Joe Biden.
Trudeau said he feels OK and said that’s because he’s been vaccinated. He is double-jabbed and has also received his booster shot. The announcement came in a tweet on Monday in which he also urged everyone to get vaccinated.
Canada has one of the world’s highest rates of vaccination against the coronavirus — shots which are primarily designed to keep those who become infected from falling seriously ill. An estimated 81% of the Canadian population is vaccinated against Covid-19, according to government data, a Global News report said.
(With inputs from agencies)