Flying in Canada? You’ll have to be fully vaccinated even if you’re traveling domestically

Oct 6, 2021

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As the United States debates whether to require air travelers to be vaccinated against COVID-19, our neighbor to the north just implemented a sweeping vaccination policy for travel.

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced on Oct. 6 that all people 12 and older traveling by rail or air in Canada must be fully vaccinated before boarding. This is not entirely new, as I reported back in August that Canada would require proof of vaccination for air and rail travel. But what is new is that travelers finally have a date for when the order goes into effect: Oct. 30. 

Travelers leaving from Canadian airports, as well as those traveling by Via Rail and Rocky Mountaineer trains, will be required to be fully vaccinated, with very limited exceptions. Those exceptions, the government says, include those in remote, fly-in communities, emergency travel and exceptional medical reasons.

Trudeau also said a “short transition period” when unvaccinated travelers will be able to show proof of a negative COVID-19 test would end on Nov. 30. 

“Vaccines are the best way to keep each other safe,” Transport Minister Omar Alghabra said in the statement. “Requiring travellers and employees to be vaccinated ensures that everyone who travels and works in the transportation industry will better protect each other and keep Canadians safe.”

The news comes just two months after Canada reopened to vaccinated Americans after a 17-month border closure. Americans who are fully vaccinated can finally enter Canada for tourism or other nonessential purposes by air and land so long as they pack a negative PCR test. The U.S. will reopen for vaccinated international air travelers in November, but notably, the land border between the U.S. and Canada remains shut except for essential reasons.

The U.S. is mired in its own debate about requiring proof of vaccination for domestic travel, which is gaining steam in Washington.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a Democrat from California, introduced a bill last week that would require all passengers on domestic flights to be fully vaccinated or have proof they’ve recently tested negative or have fully recovered from COVID-19. And the White House’s top infectious disease expert said in September he would support a vaccine mandate for domestic air travel.

For now, the White House doesn’t appear to be close to mandating vaccines for travel.

Several airlines have already begun requiring their employees to be vaccinated or have a medical or religious exemption. Those who don’t comply with the order face termination. 

But as I’ve written before, requiring proof of vaccination in the U.S. would likely get backlash from the travel industry, which has long pushed back against any mandate. However, even if the industry isn’t keen on the idea, several studies indicate most Americans are.

Featured photo by JL IMAGES/Shutterstock.com

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