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Canada Will Require All Air Travelers To Be Vaccinated In A Broad New Policy

All passengers and workers on commercial air flights in Canada will soon have to prove they've been vaccinated against the coronavirus. Canada's government will also require all federal workers to be vaccinated, citing a "dynamic public health situation" due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The new travel vaccination policy will apply to passengers and workers in the federally regulated air, rail and cruise ship sectors. It will be enacted "as soon as possible in the fall and no later than the end of October," the Canadian Treasury Board said on Friday.

"Canadians deserve to feel confident when traveling that the environment around them is safe," Transport Minister Omar Alghabra said. "We need to regain public confidence in travel" to help the industry that's been hobbled by the pandemic, he added.

Details of the new vaccine mandate are still being worked out, the government said. Exceptions to the policy would require safety measures such as testing and screening.

On Monday, Canada moved to reopen its border with the United States, easing its travel ban in cases where would-be visitors from the U.S. have been vaccinated for at least 14 days and test negative for the coronavirus. Canada is Americans' second most popular travel destination, behind only to Mexico.

Canada's new mandate for federal workers could come into effect "as early as the end of September," the government said.

The policy promises to affect more than 1.2 million employees — 8% of Canada's workforce — who either work for the government directly or work in federal-regulated industries and at federal Crown corporations, which are essentially state-owned enterprises.

Canada has already endured two large waves in coronavirus cases — one at the turn of the year and a second in the spring. With indicators now trending upward again, Canadian leaders are imposing new policies to boost vaccinations and limit the spread of the coronavirus.

"More than 71% of eligible people in Canada are fully vaccinated, and more than 82% have had their first shot," the Canadian Treasury Board said. "However, more than 6 million eligible people in Canada are still unvaccinated."

As of late July, Canada had reported 5,3111 coronavirus cases in the federal public service, the government said Friday.

Overall, Canada has reported more than 1.4 million cases and nearly 26,700 deaths from COVID-19.

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Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.