Canada now requires travelers to have masks, cover their nose and mouth while traveling

Apr 18, 2020

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In many parts of the U.S., masks or other face coverings are required — or at least strongly encouraged — to enter grocery stores and other public places such as airports. After all, covering your nose and mouth prevents your respiratory droplets from contaminating others or landing on surfaces. As non-essential travel becomes advisable again, masks will likely be a common sight, especially in crowded areas.

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It’s no surprise then that on Friday, April 17, the Canadian Minister of Transport announced new measures requiring all air passengers to have a non-medical mask or face covering to cover their mouth and nose during travel. These measures will go into effect at noon EDT on April 20.

Specifically, the announcement said the following about air travel:

When traveling by air, travelers will be asked to cover their mouth and nose:

  • at Canadian airport screening checkpoints, where the screeners cannot always keep two meters of separation between themselves and the traveller;
  • when they cannot physically distance from others, or as directed by the airline employees; and
  • when directed to do so by a public health order or public health official.

Aviation passengers on all flights departing or arriving at Canadian airports will also be required to demonstrate they have the necessary non-medical mask or face covering during the boarding process otherwise they will not be allowed to continue on their journey.

The announcement, which also provides guidance for those traveling by other means such as ferries, buses and trains, is also careful to note that, “Existing public health and good hygiene practices including physical distancing and frequent hand washing, are still the most effective methods to limit the spread of the virus.

Further reading: Will a face mask keep you safe from viruses on a plane?

Although passengers traveling to, from or within Canada are required to show that they have a mask or face covering during boarding, there’s seemingly no requirement that passengers wear their mask. After all, the announcement only states passengers will be asked to cover their nose and mouth. And, although passengers will not be allowed to continue on their journey if they can’t show that they have a mask, there’s no stated penalty if a passenger refuses to cover their nose and mouth when asked to do so.

Of course, this announcement leads me to wonder what other countries — including the U.S. — will require and ask going forward. The U.S. may follow Canada’s lead and ask or suggest that travelers to wear a mask or face covering while traveling. But, I suspect the U.S. will stop short of requiring mask usage.

Further reading: 7 ways coronavirus could forever change the way we travel

Even if passengers are required to wear masks during flight, they’ll still need to remove their masks to eat and drink. And, masks aren’t as effective as physical distancing and frequent hand washing, especially when masks are worn or used incorrectly. In the end, some travelers may not be comfortable traveling again until there is a vaccine, treatment and/or quick, widely available testing.

Further reading: Preboarding screenings and new cleaning procedures: How US airlines are working to keep flyers healthy

Featured photo by Thanit Weerawan/Getty Images.

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