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The Canadian government says it will soon require commercial air, cruise ship and train passengers to be fully vaccinated in order to travel.
In a news conference on Friday, Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic LeBlanc and Transport Minister Omar Alghabra said the government intends to make COVID-19 vaccines mandatory across the federal public service, and will expect Crown corporations and other federally regulated sectors to follow suit. They also said that before the end of October, Ottawa will require employees in the federally regulated air, rail, and marine transportation space to be fully vaccinated.
The policy for air, train and cruise ship passengers will apply to "certain" travellers, officials said, but no details were revealed. Alghabra said accommodations will be made for "those few who are unable to be vaccinated," such as testing and screening.
"Being vaccinated makes the workplace and travel safer for everybody," Alghabra said. "We will work closely with key stakeholders, operators, and bargaining agents in particular, to develop a measured and practical approach to requiring vaccines in these sectors as quickly as possible."
The federal government earlier this week said they're developing a vaccine passport for Canadians who want to travel internationally, and that the program should be ready by the early fall.
The WestJet Group today sait welcomes the announcement. Company officials said they'll adhere to the requirement for domestic travellers to be fully-vaccinated or tested prior to departure. The airline group is advocating that rapid-antigen testing is an acceptable, accessible and affordable alternative for unvaccinated travellers.
"We continue to be a strong partner in Canada's vaccination rollout and are working diligently to implement the government's policy on mandatory vaccines for airline employees," said Mark Porter, WestJet Executive Vice-President, People and Culture. "Vaccinations are the most effective way to ensure the safety of our guests and employees, while curbing the spread of COVID-19."
"We understand our people will have questions and will be discussing with our employee and labour groups in real-time," continued Porter. "We are seeking additional detail from the federal government on the requirement and are committed to working together to ensure the successful implementation of the policy by late October."
"Although Air Canada awaits further details about today's announcement on mandatory vaccinations, it is a welcome step forward in the evolving measures to protect the health and safety of airline employees, customers and all Canadian," airline officials said. "Air Canada is committed to work with its unions and the Government of Canada to implement this new policy in an effective manner with the aim of increasing safety and streamlining the application of science-based health and safety measures in a manner consistent with the Government's COVID-19 Testing and Screening Expert Advisory Panel report of May 5, 2021.
"In particular, for travellers, the panel recommended: that there should be no pre-departure testing for fully vaccinated travellers; acknowledging that testing at both departure and arrival is excessive for these passengers; and that effective self-administered rapid antigen tests now available can safely replace slower and more expensive PCR testing for pre-departure tests," airline officials said.
"Air Canada also remains committed to the continued development and application of new safety measures and processes that are effective and convenient for customers as they become available. Such measures are vital to the safe restart of the air transport industry which, apart from enabling Canadians to travel freely, is also an essential driver of economic activity in Canada."
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