A huge step forward for a country that was particularly strict with Covid protocols, coming during a week in which Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tested positive for the virus for a second time.
Canada will suspend its requirement to be vaccinated against COVID-19 for domestic travel and to work in the civil service, a government source said on Tuesday, after provinces lifted most health restrictions in recent months.
The mandates may be reinstated later, especially in the case of a surge of a new variant, the source, who was not authorized to speak on the record, said. International travelers coming to Canada still will be required to show proof of vaccination.
Unvaccinated people departing from Canada will be allowed to travel, the source said.
The mandates for domestic travel and the civil service have been in place since Oct. 30 of last year, about a month after Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau won a third election in part by promising to take a hard line on vaccinations.
Spurred by the mandate, 95% of public employees confirmed they had received two shots of a COVID-19 vaccine.
This summer, with infections declining, most provinces have dropped even their masking requirements, and the Trudeau government has come under increasing pressure from the opposition and industry to relax its mandates more broadly.
The travel mandates have also been blamed by some airline industry officials for lengthening already long wait times at airports.
In recent weeks, Toronto’s Pearson airport has had planes stuck at gates and hours-long security lines because of staffing shortages. Last week Canada said random testing would be suspended at all airports until July 1, also with an eye on reducing airport congestion.
The government will hold a news conference later on Tuesday to announce the suspension of the mandates, news that was first reported late on Monday by the Toronto Star and the Canadian Broadcasting Corp.
(Reporting by Steve Scherer Editing by Alexandra Hudson)