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No plans to change masking policy on planes, trains in Canada as U.S. drops mandate: Alghabra

Canada’s Transport Minister Omar Alghabra says masking guidelines while travelling still apply, as the U.S. moves to drop its national mandate.

Speaking in Calgary on Tuesday, Alghabra said while he won’t comment directly on the U.S. court ruling that impacts plane, train, taxi, and other forms of travel, Canada continues to follow the science on masking.

“The mask regulation is in place and it's based on the advice that we received from our experts and doctors and based on data. It is proven that masks prevent or reduce the transmission of COVID,” he said.

The minister noted that pandemic-related health measures are constantly being reassessed.

“There is no change in our regulation… Whenever the advice that we receive changes because circumstances change, we will change our regulation. But for now it is what it is,” he said.

On Monday, a federal judge in Florida ruled that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) overstepped its authority in issuing the months-long face mask order on which the Transportation Security Administration directive was based.

The ruling gives American transit entities the option to keep their mask rules in place if they choose, which could result in differing policies from city to city.

Currently in Canada, travellers must wear a mask or face covering while travelling through Canadian airports and for the duration of flights. Air operators are required to notify passengers of the rule and receive confirmation that everyone has a face covering.

Transport Canada says travellers should wear a mask or face covering while travelling by rail, road and water.

Asked whether the minister is concerned travellers might find the differing mask guidelines on either side of the border confusing, Alghabra said he is confident Canadians will continue to follow the rules.

Conservative transport critic Melissa Lantsman weighed in on Monday’s ruling in the U.S. on Twitter.

“U.S. Judge overturns national mask mandate for planes, trains and buses. Meanwhile in Canada almost 6 million Canadians still cannot travel. We are further and further out of step with the [world]. #endthemandates,” the tweet reads.

U.S. District Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle, an appointee of former U.S. president Donald Trump, said in her ruling that the only remedy was to throw out the mask mandate for the entire country because it would be impossible to end it just for the people who filed the original lawsuit against the order in July 2021.

On April 13, the CDC announced an extension of their mask order through to May 3, citing the need to study the impact of the rise in cases as they relate to severe disease and health-care system capacity.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters on Monday that Mizelle’s decision is “disappointing.”

“So, right now, the Department of Homeland Security, who would be implementing, and the CDC are reviewing the decision. And, of course, the Department of Justice would make any determinations about litigation,” she said.

Speaking about the move on Tuesday during a press conference in New Brunswick, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said it is necessary to strike a balance between getting back to some semblance of normality, while also recognizing the COVID-19 pandemic is not over.

“As we look at entering this new phase of the pandemic, that features both a sixth wave of the second variant of Omicron, but also a loosening of restrictions in many, many places across the country, we have to get that balance right. People want to stay safe, but they also want to get back to the things they love and the best way to do that is to lean in on what science is telling us,” he said.

With files from The Associated Press Top Stories

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