The province of Ontario is set to lift nearly all of its remaining mask mandates on Saturday (June 11).
Earlier this week, Dr. Kieran Moore, Ontario's chief medical officer of health, said he will not extend the remaining mask mandates in high-risk places (with the exception of those in long-term care and retirement homes).
"With high vaccination rates and Ontario's COVID-19 situation continuing to improve, most of the province's remaining provincial masking requirements, including on public transit, will expire as of 12:00 a.m. on June 11, 2022," Moore said in a statement.
The loosening of restrictions won’t apply to air travel, however. While aircraft face covering requirements have been dropped in U.S. and European markets, Canada’s face mask rule for plane (and train) travel, which is mandated by Transport Canada, is here to stay.
At least that’s what Transport Minister Omar Alghabra implied in a tweet posted late Thursday June 9).
“We are keeping Canadians safe when they travel by air and rail, by making masks mandatory for everyone onboard,” Minister Alghabra wrote on his Twitter account yesterday, attaching an image of mask alongside the statement “you are 83% less likely to get COVID-19 if you wear a mask.” (A N95/KN95 mask in an indoor setting).
The Canadian government faces heightened pressure to ease its mask-wearing requirement for air and rail travel as other regions around the world drop the pandemic-era policy.
In April, multiple U.S. airlines made face coverings optional for both passengers and employees following a judge's ruling that struck down the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) masking rules for public transit.
And then last month, the European Aviation Safety Agency’s (EASA) announced that it would drop its face mask mandate on May 16 for airports and flights that take place in Europe.
Both the EASA and European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), however, continue to advise vulnerable passengers to wear a face mask, regardless of the rules.
Still, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) applauded the move.
“This important shift reflects the high levels of vaccination, natural immunity levels, and the removal of domestic restrictions in many European nations,” IATA wrote in a statement on May 11.
Minister Alghabra has previously expressed his support for keeping Canada’s mask mandate for air and train travel in place.
"Masks are proven to provide additional layers of protection and we will continue to follow the advice of our public health experts," Alghabra told reporters in April. "I take no joy in these regulations except to know they are done to protect everyone's health and safety."
"We constantly consult our experts and whenever the advice that we receive changes because the circumstances change, we will change our regulation.”
"But for now, it is what it is."