NIAGARA FALLS N.Y. (WIVB) – Canada is lifting its testing, quarantine and vaccination requirements at the border, a step in rolling back pandemic restrictions designed to stave off the spread of COVID-19, the government announced Monday.

“It’s obviously a good thing anytime that you can promote easier travel when there’s more restrictions people are likely to shop in Canada and stay there,” said Sara Harvey, who’s the Director of communication for Destination Niagara USA.

Starting Oct. 1, international travelers will be able to enter Canada without providing proof of vaccination, taking a pre-arrival test or undergoing quarantine, according to a government release. Compulsory masking on domestic planes and trains will also end, as will a longstanding requirement to share health information with the Canadian government via its ArriveCAN application prior to entry.  

The tourism industry says easing restrictions now is a great time for retailers and shopping centers, because it’s right before the start of the holiday season.

“We’ve been waiting for this for what feels like two years, and we know that our Canadian shoppers that have been shopping at this facility for decades, they’ve been really looking forward to the ease of travel between our countries so today’s a great day,” said John Doran, who’s the general manager of the Fashion Outlets of Niagara Falls.

“Canadian shoppers represent a huge number of people that spend money at the fashion outlets and at Destination Niagara we’re planning to ramp up marketing efforts to attract those shoppers to come back this holiday season,” Harvey said. “I know the fashion outlets are ready and welcoming them back and we look forward to having them back in the states.”

Non-U.S. citizens driving across the border from Canada into the U.S. are still required to have a COVID-19 vaccine. U.S. citizens, however, are not required to show proof of vaccination. Congressman Brian Higgins is pushing to have that requirement lifted.

The Hill) — The move comes as many countries attempt to ease out of the strict restrictions put in place during the COVID-19 pandemic even as the virus continues to circulate.  

“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,” Canada’s Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos said in a statement.

“However, we expect COVID-19 and other respiratory viruses will continue to circulate over the cold months, so I encourage everyone to stay up-to-date with their COVID-19 vaccination, including booster doses and exercise individual public health measures.” 

The government cited high vaccination rates, low hospitalization and death rates and the availability of booster vaccinations, including the new bivalent booster targeted at the omicron variant, as reasons for the eased restrictions.

Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino said that “COVID-19 border measures were always meant to be temporary” and that Canada is “making adjustments based on the current situation.” 

A group of Canadian members of Parliament and border-city mayors last week issued a letter urging Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and President Biden to ease the border restrictions, according to CBC News. 

Trudeau agreed to drop the vaccine requirement for international travelers last week. It will now expire with the other pandemic restrictions on Sept. 30. 

The U.S. has been making similar moves to roll back pandemic protections at both state and federal levels. The vaccination requirement for international travelers entering the country is still in place. 

Biden earlier this month came under fire for saying the COVID-19 pandemic is “over,” and later clarified that “it basically is not where it was.” 

The head of the World Health Organization (WHO) recently said the end of the pandemic “is in sight,” but noted that “we are not there yet.” 

Sarah Minkewicz is an Emmy-nominated reporter from Buffalo, N.Y. who has been part of the News 4 team since 2019. See more of her work here and follow her on Twitter.