Ottawa to maintain mask requirement for travellers after U.S. drops rule: transport minister

Transport Minister Omar Alghabra is giving no indication his government plans to drop its masking requirement for air and train passengers in Canada in the near future.

“We constantly consult our experts and whenever the advice that we receive changes because the circumstances change, we will change our regulation,” he said Tuesday. “But for now, it is what it is.”

His comments came after a federal judge in Florida struck down a Biden administration requirement that passengers wear face coverings on airplanes and mass transit.

In her decision, U.S. District Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle said the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) failed to justify the mask mandate and did not follow proper regulatory procedures.

On Monday night, the Transportation Security Administration said it would no longer enforce the masking requirement. Airlines and airports across the U.S. swiftly began to repeal their masking requirements for passengers.

Taking a question from reporters in Calgary, Alghabra wouldn’t comment on the U.S. decision but said the Canadian government bases its decisions on science and data.

“Masks are proven to provide additional layers of protection and we will continue to follow the advice of our public health experts,” he said.

“I take no joy in these regulations except to know they are done to protect everyone’s health and safety.”

Transport Minister Omar Alghabra says his government’s mask mandate measure for air and train passengers is based on science and data. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

The federal government requires that passengers be fully vaccinated with accepted vaccines before boarding domestic or international flights departing from most airports in Canada. It also requires that passengers wear masks inside airports and rail terminals and while on board planes and trains.

A Canadian official — speaking on background because they were not authorized to speak on the record — said the government communicated with airline operators Monday night to say that Canada’s mask requirements will still apply.

Tam recommends mask use despite some provinces dropping mandates

While a number of provinces have lifted their mask mandates, Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam recommends that Canadians carry on masking in indoor settings.

“We are seeing that resurgence, whether you call it the sixth wave or however many waves there is in your local jurisdiction, it is a resurgence,” she said during a briefing last week.

“Wear a mask anyways, whether the province … [or] local jurisdiction is recommending it or not.”

The CDC recently extended the mask mandate — which was set to expire Monday — until May 3 to allow more time to study the BA.2 Omicron subvariant of the coronavirus now responsible for the vast majority of cases in the U.S.

“This is obviously a disappointing decision,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Monday, speaking of the Florida court case. “The CDC is recommending wearing a mask on public transit.”

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