After more than 2 1/2 years, international travel has returned to a more normal level in Canada.
The federal government lifted the last of the COVID-19 restrictions on Saturday. The ArriveCan app is now optional, and you would have to wonder why anyone would choose to use it if it’s not necessary. (Maybe they have as much time on their hands as people who incessantly yap on social media).
Mandatory vaccination requirements for cross-border travellers are finished. Random COVID-19 testing for those entering the country is over.
And for those travelling within Canada by plane or train, you don’t have to wear a mask any longer.
These end of COVID-related travel measures comes among concerns that we might be seeing another spike in the number of COVID-19 cases this fall due to the Omicron variant and lower levels of Canadians getting the COVID booster shot.
But it was time for the restrictions to end. They should have actually been dropped a few months ago.
For those of us who reside in southeast Saskatchewan, we should be happy to see more people crossing the border. We enjoy the benefit of U.S. travellers coming to our communities and shopping in our stores. It was nearly impossible to have that happen at the start of the pandemic, and it was still difficult to cross in the past year or so when the border reopened to some non-essential traffic.
It’s also imperative to make it easier to cross the border now with the Canadian dollar lower against its U.S. counterpart. Americans could be more willing to spend money in Canada, knowing that there is more value.
I hope we’ll see more American visitors to Estevan, North Portal, Oxbow and other communities that have been hurt by the border restrictions.
I’m hopeful that this means we’ll see more American drivers at the Estevan Motor Speedway next season. The track has done a great job of repeatedly pivoting during the challenges of the past three years. They still had entertaining programs with about 60 drivers a night.
It was nice to see a few American drivers back here for this season. But there weren’t a lot. And I’m sure fans often thought they would like to see Mike and Travis Hagen, Joren Boyce and some of the other American regulars who haven’t been here since 2019.
And hopefully it means we’ll see the Dakota Classic Modified Tour back here for the 2023 season.
The next step should be returning the Canada-U.S. border crossings to normal hours.
As for the other measures, the end of ArriveCan was long overdue. It took me about 15 minutes to fill it out the only time I did it; I’m sure it would have been much easier with future instances. But it was a significant hindrance for senior citizens who aren’t as tech savvy as younger generations.
And we don’t have to worry about masking while on planes and trains. I’m sure there will still be people wearing a mask; if they do, that’s their choice and they shouldn’t be criticized for it.
But when you’re on a long flight, it is difficult to have your mask on for hours at a time.
I still have the “please wear your mask at all times” message echoing through my head from my prolonged layovers at Pearson International Airport in Toronto in June and July. Maybe people won’t have to hear it any longer.
Hopefully the end of these measures also make it that much easier for both international and domestic travellers.
This is not to say that COVID is over. It’s not. The virus is going to have a presence for years to come. But as long as we don’t see a large mutation into something far more sinister than what Omicron is now, we shouldn’t need a return to restrictions, or worse, the lockdowns that we saw at the start of the pandemic.
We know what we’re up against, we have a vaccine and we’ve been able to adapt the vaccine to meet the virus’ changes.
Should we finally have a cathartic mask-burning ceremony? Probably not. We might need them again one day. And if you want to enter a health-care facility in Saskatchewan, there’s a good chance you’ll still have to wear a mask. (I think St. Joseph’s Hospital and a doctor’s office are the only places I’ve worn mine in the past three months).
But at least for now, we’ve had another step forward in bringing us back towards the world we knew before COVID-19.