Mixed reaction from Ottawa travellers as Canada drops COVID-19 border rules, travel mask mandates

Paul Peloquin and Linda Johnson are travelling by plane from Ottawa to Amsterdam.  It’s been awhile since the couple has left the country.

“We went to Mexico just before COVID started, that was a good trip,” Johnson said.

Now, for the first time in years, their flight out of Canada looks nearly the same as the last time they were on board a plane.

For those arriving at the airport or train station, the rules have changed, marking the end to Canada’s travel COVID-19 rules. That means masking on planes and trains is optional, travellers will not have to use the ArriveCAN app when crossing the border, undergo COVID testing, quarantine or show proof of vaccination.

“It’s nice not to wear masks or fill out forms,” said Sally Hobbs, travelling back to the UK after visiting family for a few weeks in Ottawa. She hopes the change will speed up the process at the airport. 

“ArriveCan forms quite lengthy to fill out especially with all of us, so it’s nice to go back with one document… a passport,” said Hobbs.

But when it comes to masks, several travellers are erring on the side of caution. 

“I’m just not ready yet, I’m going to keep my mask on when I travel,” Lynn Coward said.

“It’s a preference for me (to keep my mask on)”, said Lisa Turner. “COVID is still spreading.”

COVID-19 rules at the border expire as Canadians brace for another wave of the virus. Ottawa Public Health says wastewater levels are high and increasing, higher than it was during the Omicron wave in the winter. The Montfort Hospital imposed visitor restrictions because of the rise in COVID numbers.

“To no one’s surprise we are seeing a rise in cases,” said Infectious Diseases Specialist Dr. Isaac Bogoch.

Health officials say in addition to masking up in crowded spaces, getting a booster shot would help curb the spread.

“I think the key here is to get as many people, especially those over the age of 60 boosted,” Bogoch. “Our health care system is extraordinarily stretched and we’re already having challenges and this will go a long way keeping people out of hospital.”

Back at the Ottawa International Airport, Peloquin and Johnson walk towards security. They aren’t wearing masks yet, but are planning to put them on when they board the plane. 

“I think we’re going to wear a mask in a crowded place, otherwise keep our distance. We have 14 days on the road, we don’t want to get sick halfway through,” said Peloquin. 

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