People board a Boeing 737 MAX plane operated by Air Canada at Edmonton International Airport in Alberta, Canada, on July 27, 2022. (TED SHAFFREY / AP)
OTTAWA / MOSCOW / NEW YORK – Canada will drop all COVID-19 restrictions for travelers from Oct 1, including vaccination and masking requirements for flights and trains, the government said on Monday.
The move is likely to boost the Canadian travel industry, already booming after months of lull during the pandemic.
Canadian carriers were also pressing for an end to mask mandates on flights, citing thousands of incidents of non-compliance this year alone.
"As Canadians and international visitors look to make travel plans, the long-awaited removal of all remaining measures effective Oct 1, 2022 will further expedite recovery for our industry and the Canadian economy," Canada's second-largest carrier WestJet Airlines said in a statement.
The decision to end restrictions was based on Canada's vaccination rate, availability of newer vaccines and treatments and data showing the country had passed the peak of the latest wave of coronavirus infections, the government said.
More than 90 percent of Canadians over 12 have taken the primary series of a COVID-19 vaccine. This month, Canada authorized Moderna Inc's bivalent COVID-19 shots for adults, the country's first Omicron-adapted vaccine.
"Thanks largely to Canadians who have rolled up their sleeves to get vaccinated, we have reached the point where we can safely lift the sanitary measures at the border," Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos said.
Duclos said the government was prepared to reinstate restrictions if needed.
"Obviously we have no hope to reintroduce some of these measures but if we need to protect the safety of Canadians, we will have to," he told reporters in Ottawa.
Travelers, regardless of citizenship, will not have to submit health information through the ArriveCAN app or provide proof of vaccination from Saturday.
A requirement for travelers to wear masks on planes and trains would also be dropped. Cruise ship passengers and crew would also no longer be subject to vaccine requirements or COVID testing.
ALSO READ: Report: German chancellor Scholz tests positive for COVID
In this file photo taken on Jan 10, 2022, a health worker shows a vial of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine against the coronavirus disease COVID-19 at a vaccination center in Santiago. (JAVIER TORRES / AFP)
Pfizer and BioNTech
Pfizer Inc and its German partner BioNTech on Monday sought the US Food and Drug Administration's authorization for an Omicron-tailored COVID-19 vaccine booster for children aged 5 through 11 years.
The application comes just days after Moderna also applied for FDA authorization of its own Omicron-targeting shot in adolescents aged 12 to 17 years and children aged six to 11.
The applications represent a step towards getting children vaccinated by a so-called bivalent vaccine, which targets both the original strain of the virus and the circulating BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants of Omicron.
The rollout of bivalent booster doses for older age groups has been off to a slow start in the United States compared to the rollout of the first boosters last year, with 4.4 million doses administered so far.
Russia registered 40,188 new COVID-19 cases in the past 24 hours, taking the nationwide tally to 20,833,109, the official monitoring and response center said Monday.
The nationwide death toll increased by 85 to 386,842, while the number of recoveries grew by 44,257 to 19,800,764, the center said.
Meanwhile, Moscow reported 2,438 new cases, taking its total to 3,182,861.
In this file photo taken on Nov 02, 2021, a six year old child receives the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine for 5-11 year old kids at Hartford Hospital in Hartford, Connecticut on Nov 2, 2021. (JOSEPH PREZIOSO / AFP)
At least 4.4 million people have received an updated COVID-19 booster since the start of the month, according to data released Thursday by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
"That number represents around 1.5 percent of people currently eligible to receive the shots in the US," said the CDC in its report of the data.
The data does not include people who received updated Pfizer-BioNTech boosters in Idaho and Texas, the CDC said, so it is likely an underestimate. The White House estimates the number to be closer to 5 million doses of the new booster.
The CDC signed off on updated versions of Pfizer's and Moderna's booster shots on Sept 1, and pharmacies and other vaccination sites began administering the new shots around Labor Day weekend.
"The bivalent shots target both the original coronavirus strain and the currently circulating omicron subvariants BA.4 and BA.5," added the report.
ALSO READ: US rollout of new COVID-19 boosters off to slow start
This photo, provided by Office of the Governor of New York, shows Moderna COVID-19 vaccine at the Boriken Neighborhood Health Center, in New York on Sept 7, 2022. (DON POLLARD / OFFICE OF THE GOVERNOR OF NEW YORK VIA AP)
Separately, the US FDA said on Monday it has authorized an additional five batches of Moderna Inc's updated COVID-19 booster shots made at a Catalent facility in Indiana, after it deemed them safe for use.
Last week, the health regulator had allowed use of ten batches of Moderna's updated booster shots made at the Bloomington, Indiana facility, owned by a unit of Catalent Inc, which is currently not a part of the company's emergency use authorization.
The FDA had earlier said Moderna had requested authorization for additional batches in light of the current supply issues. It did not provide details on the number of doses cleared in both instances.
US pharmacy chains like CVS Health and Walgreens Boots Alliance have been working with the US government to acquire more Moderna doses and said they have not seen any supply issues for the Pfizer/BioNtech booster shot.
The government, which has sent out over 25 million of the COVID-19 booster shots targeting BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants of Omicron, has ordered more than 170 million updated shots for this fall, in preparation for a broad revaccination campaign.