As policymakers at various levels and businesses around the world implement Covid-19 vaccination rules for employees and clients, the Canadian government on Friday announced a new wave of vaccine requirements for certain workers and travelers.
"Driving vaccine uptake in Canada to as high a level as possible is one of the most effective, and least disruptive, means at our disposal to... ensure that we continue on our path to economic recovery, and a healthier and more equitable future."
—Jean-Yves Duclos, Treasury Board
"We know vaccinations are the best way to help protect our fellow Canadians from Covid-19 variants of concern," said Dominic LeBlanc, Canada's minister of intergovernmental affairs, in a statement.
"We are encouraged by the many federal employees who have already been vaccinated," LeBlanc added, "and hope that vaccination rates will continue to climb as the government of Canada moves ahead on its vaccination strategy."
In addition to mandating vaccination for federal public servants as early as the end of September, the government will require employees in the federally regulated air, rail, and marine transportation sectors to be vaccinated "as soon as possible in the fall and no later than the end of October."
The requirement also applies to commercial air travelers as well as passengers on interprovincial trains and cruise ships. A government statement said that it expects crown corporations—which are hybrids of a government body and private entity—and "other employers in the federally regulated sector will also require vaccination for their employees."
Omar Alghabra, the minister of transport, said the government "is leading by example in requiring vaccinations for public service employees, and we are asking all federally regulated employers to develop vaccine plans to ensure their employees and workplaces are safe."
Air Canada, the country's largest domestic and international carrier, said in a statement that although it "awaits further details about today's announcement on mandatory vaccinations, it is a welcome step forward in the evolving measures to protect the health and safety of airline employees, customers, and all Canadians."
Westjet, Canada's second-largest airline, welcomed the new requirement for employees but said that it "is advocating that rapid-antigen testing is an acceptable, accessible, and affordable alternative for unvaccinated travelers."
The announcement comes as there are 14,737 known cases of Covid-19 across Canada. Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, the country has reported 26,692 deaths tied to the virus and more than 1.4 million confirmed infections.
Cases are on the rise, largely driven by the highly contagious Delta variant, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada. The country saw an average of 1,609 new infections each day from last Friday to Thursday, an increase of 70% over the previous week.
"Since the start of the vaccination campaign in mid-December, less than 1% of Covid-19 cases have been among those who were fully protected by the vaccine," according to the government statement.
Four Covid-19 vaccines are currently authorized in Canada—three for adults only and one for anyone age 12 or older. The vaccines are provided to Canadians free of charge.
So far, government data shows, more than 81% of eligible Canadians have received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine and over 70% of them are now fully vaccinated.
"There are enough doses in Canada for every person to be fully vaccinated across the country," noted to Canadian Minister of Health Patty Hajdu.
Rich countries have been accused by global justice campaigners of hoarding Covid-19 vaccines and preventing more rapid production and distribution, leading to a huge disparity in vaccination rates between nations of the Global North and South. Still, public health officials are urging anyone who has access to a vaccine to get it.
"By getting vaccinated, you are protecting yourself, your family, and your community," Hajdu said. "By being fully vaccinated, you are also protecting the safety of your workplaces. If you haven't been vaccinated yet, please make a plan to do so."
Jean-Yves Duclos, president of the Treasury Board, said that "driving vaccine uptake in Canada to as high a level as possible is one of the most effective, and least disruptive, means at our disposal to sustain the gains we have made in recent months, and ensure that we continue on our path to economic recovery, and a healthier and more equitable future."
Polling from July found a majority of the Canadian public supports a proof-of-vaccination requirement for travel or public events. The policy is least popular with members of the country's two major conservative political parties.
Reuters reported that the new policies come "just two days ahead of an expected election call by Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and could prove to be a wedge issue in the campaign."
This content originally appeared on Common Dreams - Breaking News & Views for the Progressive Community and was authored by Jessica Corbett.