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'It's about time': Ontario border towns optimistic over dropping of COVID-19 vaccine requirements

In border towns there is renewed optimism after learning the federal government plans to drop its remaining COVID-19 vaccine border requirements by the end of September and make the ArriveCan App optional.

Sources confirmed the changes to CTV News, which are expected at the end of the month.

"It's about time. Ninety percent of eligible Canadians are vaccinated and we've heard from the World Health Organization this is coming to an end," said Niagara Falls Mayor Jim Diodati. "The time is now to open up the borders as they have in Europe and other major destinations."

The tourism industry and border city mayors have been advocating for Ottawa to end the restrictions, which they have said are hampering business.

"ArriveCan was a disaster at the border. It was glitchy. It was forcing our guests to lie when asked for a quarantine location," said Diodati.

However, Diodati is expressing frustration that the measures were not eased ahead of the summer tourism season.

He says on an average year, about 14 million people visit Niagara Falls and about 25 percent are American travelers.

"This year we expected a big rebound. Unfortunately for international visitation, it never happened. We were half of what it should have been, so the numbers are measured in terms of billions of lost revenue."

The vaccination requirement was dropped for Canadians travelling by plane or train in June, but remains in place for foreign nationals entering Canada.

The federal government said in late June that existing border restrictions, including showing proof of vaccination to enter the country, would remain in place until at least Sept. 30. The latest news suggests the federal government may simply choose not to extend these measures any further.

"I think they should. I mean most of the world is back to normal," said Thomas Green who visiting Niagara Falls from Louisiana.

Chad Roenhildt welcomes the anticipated changes, especially making the ArriveCan app optional. He regularly flies from the U.S. to Canada.

"We fly across the border quiet often and it takes up a lot of time and it has to be precise but when you're working with other people sometime it's not always correct," he said. "Even in the Caribbean and other places we fly to things are back to normal."

While many travelers see the ArriveCan app as a nuisance, some are expressing concern about allowing unvaccinated international travelers.

"I'm concerned about some of countries that are having outbreaks, I'm not sure if it's a great idea just to make it a blanket removal of those restrictions," one woman who is visiting Niagara Falls from Simcoe County told CTV News.

While officials wait for official confirmation from Ottawa, looking ahead Diodati has concerns about whether American tourist who haven't been able to cross the border during the pandemic will return.

"Our big concerns is that they established new habits, new destinations and they may bypass Canada," he said.

Diodati believes all levels of governments must work together on a new campaign to entice those tourists to consider travelling to Canada again.

- With files from CTV National News Top Stories

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