MISSAUGA — Travel restrictions linked to the COVID-19 pandemic, including mandates for masks, expired Saturday as the remaining border measures officially ceased operating.
Some travelers say they are meeting the changes with mixed feelings of relief and anxiety as they look forward to an uncertain winter and signs that the number of cases is on the rise.
Federal officials announced earlier this week that a ministerial order affecting mandatory vaccinations, testing and quarantine for international travelers will not be renewed as the new month begins.
This means travelers to Canada no longer need to show proof of vaccination against COVID-19, while wearing a mask on planes and trains is now optional.
B.C. residents, Joan and Ted Parker, say they would have preferred the rules still apply for masks, which are still recommended.
“I think it’s excellent protection,” said Joanne Parker while waiting at Pearson International Airport, west of Toronto.
“And if someone wears it, it’s not going to help, but if everyone else is wearing it, it’s really helpful.”
But she said she has already dealt with the possibility of mask rules disappearing forever.
Earlier this week, when the couple flew to Pearson, they noticed some people flouting the restrictions days before they were lifted, including one passenger who she said ignored a flight attendant’s request to keep their mask.
“I didn’t like it,” she said, “but I’m not going to say anything because I thought he’d be fine at the end of the week anyway.”
Ted Parker suggested there are “signals and downsides” to lifting the final COVID-19 travel restrictions. He hopes that one positive aspect will be fewer delays at airports, as people entering Canada no longer need to fill out an ArriveCan application and no longer undergo mandatory, randomized tests for the disease.
“When you just look around, the casual remark says people are not wearing masks,” he said, adding that he remains concerned about new variants of COVID-19.
“After two and a half years, I think people are tired of it. They want to get some semblance of nature.”
Another traveler in Pearson said that what she was most concerned about wasn’t the change in concealment rules or the cancellation of mandatory, random testing for the virus, but rather the stories she’d heard of people losing their luggage for days.
That’s why Marie Bertani packed a small carry-on bag for her trip to New York instead of her usual checked baggage.
said a resident of Pickering, Ont.
Regarding the precautions of the Corona virus, she said that she is not interested in herself, noting that she plans to wear a mask and has been vaccinated against the virus.
Announcing the end of restrictions, federal ministers said the latest wave of COVID-19 had largely passed and that travel-related cases were not having a significant impact.
But Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos warned that restrictions could be brought back again if necessary.
People coming to Canada who are not vaccinated against COVID-19 will no longer need to be isolated on arrival, and anyone who entered the country in the past two weeks and was subject to quarantine or testing was out of danger on Saturday.
Inbound travelers do not need to fill out the controversial ArriveCan app, although they can still use it to fill out their customs data at some airports.
Brian Finney flew to Toronto from Boston on Saturday morning and estimates that half of his flight’s passengers were masked.
He said he chose to remain masked on the plane because he was sitting close to people, although he took off the mask as soon as he got to the airport.
“I think changing the rules is a good thing,” he said.
“It’s someone’s choice whether they wear a mask or not.”