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COVID-19 FAQ

Mandatory Vaccination

To qualify as fully vaccinated, you need to have: 

  • received the full series of a vaccine or a combination of vaccines approved by Health Canada (Pfizer-BioNTech Comirnaty, Moderna Spikevax, AstraZeneca Vaxzevria/COVISHIELD, Janssen/Johnson & Johnson), or,  

  • receive the following COVID-19 vaccines authorized by the World Health Organization (WHO) and accepted by the Government of Canada for travel: Bharat Biotech (Covaxin), Sinopharm (Beijing) and Sinovac (CoronaVac, PiCoVacc);  

  • received your last dose at least 14 days prior to travel; 

  • a proof of vaccination credential. 

This policy applies to passengers over 12 years and 4 months of age who wish to travel on board VIA Rail trains and access business lounges. 

If you are fully vaccinated, a COVID-19 test is not required. However, if you are not fully vaccinated and qualify for an exemption, a COVID-19 molecular test performed at least 72 hours prior to travel might be required.  

To allow for a seamless boarding process, we recommend that all passengers arrive at the station at least 30 minutes prior to their departure time. 

Failure to comply could result in the passenger being escorted out of the train, station or facility by security or police. 

It is an offense under the Criminal Code to make a false statement under oath or to make a false document, knowing it to be false. 

The valid proof of vaccination needs to be in line with what is available in your province or country (e.g., provincial vaccine passport) in a paper or digital format.  

The proof of vaccination must include:  

  • the name of the person who received the vaccine; 

  • the name of the government or the name of the non-governmental entity; 

  • the brand name or any other information that identifies the vaccine that was administered; and 

  • the dates on which the vaccine was administered or, if the evidence is one document issued for more than one dose and the document only specifies the date on which the most recent dose was administered. 

For passengers originating outside Canada, an ArriveCan receipt with immunization status denoted is accepted. 

Vaccines accepted by VIA Rail are those that are authorized by Health Canada:  

  • Pfizer-BioNTech Comirnaty (tozinameran, BNT162b2)  

  • Moderna Spikevax (mRNA-1273)  

  • AstraZeneca Vaxzevria/COVISHIELD (ChAdOx1-S, AZD1222) 

  • Janssen/Johnson & Johnson (Ad26.COV2.S) 

The following vaccines authorized by the World Health Organization (WHO) are also accepted by the Government of Canada for travel: 

  • Bharat Biotech (Covaxin, BBV152 A, B, C)  

  • Sinopharm (Beijing) BBIBP-CorV (Vero Cells) 

  • Sinovac (CoronaVac, PiCoVacc) 

For more information, please visit the Government of Canada website

Until December 14, passengers who have a medical inability to be vaccinated are not required show a proof of vaccination to travel if they provide a medical note, from a medical doctor or nurse practitioner who is licensed to practice in Canada, that demonstrates their contraindication.  

Starting December 15, passengers who are not able to be vaccinated due to medical reason must submit to VIA Rail a completed form requesting an exemption at least 21 days prior to their travel date. The form can be accessed at www.viarail.ca/en/preventive-measures-COVID-19

Once the form has been received, VIA Rail retains the ability to authorize the travel. Passengers requesting an exemption must wait to receive the authorization from VIA Rail in order to travel.  

Passengers being granted a temporary authorization to travel due to a medical inability to be vaccinated must present proof of a valid COVID-19 molecular test performed within 72 hours prior to their scheduled departure time.   

To request an exemption of for more details on the process, please contact VIA Rail Customer Service at 1-888-842-7245. 

Until December 14, passengers who booked appointments to receive medical services that are important to saving lives and improving health outcomes are not required to show a proof of vaccination to travel if they provide a document from a medical doctor or nurse practioner who is licensed to practice in Canada that includes: 

  • The date of the appointment(s) for the essential medical service or treatment 

  • The location of the appointment(s) 

  • The date of the treatment (no later than December 13). 

Starting December 15, passengers who qualify for this exemption must submit to VIA Rail a completed form requesting an exemption at least 14 days prior to their travel date. The form can be accessed at www.viarail.ca/en/preventive-measures-COVID-19

Once the form has been received, VIA Rail retains the ability to authorize the travel. Passengers requesting an exemption must wait to receive the authorization from VIA Rail in order to travel. 

Passengers being granted a temporary authorization to travel for essential medical services and treatment must present proof of a valid COVID-19 molecular test performed within 72 hours prior to their scheduled departure time.   

VIA Rail will not verify proof of vaccination for a person who is at least 18 years old and who is boarding a train for the purpose of accompanying a person being granted an exemption for essential medical services and treatment if the person needs to be accompanied because they are under the age of 18 years, have a disability or need assistance to communicate.  

To request an exemption of for more details on the process, please contact VIA Rail Customer Service at 1-888-842-7245. 

Passengers who are unable to get vaccinated due to sincere religious conviction must submit to VIA Rail a completed form requesting an exemption at least 21 days prior to their travel date. The form can be accessed at www.viarail.ca/en/preventive-measures-COVID-19

Once the form has been received, VIA Rail retains the ability to authorize the travel. Passengers requesting an exemption must wait to receive the authorization from VIA Rail in order to travel. 

Passengers being granted a temporary authorization to travel for religious convictions must present proof of a valid COVID-19 molecular test performed within 72 hours prior to their scheduled departure time.   

To request an exemption or for more details on the process, please contact VIA Rail Customer Service at 1-888-842-7245. 

The temporary exemptions are valid for every round trip travel, and are only valid for the period including both the departure and return dates.

If an unvaccinated passengers must travel due to an emergency situation such as an evacuation due to fire or flood, or an urgent medical reason, VIA Rail has the authority to exempt them from the mandatory vaccination requirement and/or the requirement for a valid COVID-19 molecular test. VIA Rail will only apply this exemption when there is an immediate threat to the safety of the traveller.

Passengers residing in remote communities are not required to provide a proof of vaccination or a valid COVID-19 molecular test to travel.

This exemption applies to any person who is a resident of a community which is accessed using VIA Rail’s The Pas-Churchill route, or any other remote community for which VIA Rail may be the only means of transportation.

This policy does not apply when in an emergency situation where there is a risk to safe railway operations or to health and safety of the passengers, employees or the public.

Most passengers being granted an exemption must present proof of a valid COVID-19 molecular test performed within 72 hours prior to the scheduled departure time. 

Accepted COVID-19 molecular tests include but are not limited to: 

  • PCR: polymerase chain reaction 

  • Nucleic acid test (NAT) or nucleic acid amplification test (NAAT) 

  • Reverse transcription loop-mediated isothermal amplification (RT-LAMP) 

Please note that rapid antigen tests are not accepted. 

For a full list of accepted types of molecular tests, please visit the Government of Canada’s website.   

In line with the Government of Canada’s requirements on mandatory vaccination, VIA Rail developed a mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policy for all of its employees.  Those who have not begun their vaccination process by November 15 will be placed on administrative leave.

Yes. At this time, all travellers, vaccinated or not, must comply with public health recommendations which still require that they wear a mask, respect physical distancing and practice appropriate hygiene measures in our stations and on board our trains, and staying home when sick. We ask that passengers stay informed of public health guidelines and follow those that apply to their travel plan. In addition, it is important that passengers respect VIA Rail’s own health and safety guidelines. We will keep you updated on their evolution.

 

 

Masks for passengers

All passengers and employees must wear a mask at all times in our stations and on board our trains, except temporarily when eating or drinking (you must put the mask back on immediately afterward).

Young children under the age of two are exempt from this preventive measure. Individuals with a medical condition or disability that makes it difficult to wear a mask are also exempt, as long as they present an official medical certificate and an ID (with or without a photo).

As of November 9, 2020 individuals with a medical condition or disability that makes it difficult to wear a mask must provide an official medical certificate along with an identification card (with or without a photo). The medical certificate must meet the following criteria:

  • Clearly indicates the passenger’s full name
  • Specifies that the person has a medical condition (unrelated to COVID-19 or any other infectious illness) or a disability that prevents them from wearing a mask correctly. For example: “First name, Last name, cannot wear a mask while travelling due to medical or physical condition unrelated to COVID-19 or any other infectious condition.”
    - The nature of the medical condition preventing you from wearing the mask does not have to be stated on the certificate and does not have to be disclosed
  • Has been dated and issued by a healthcare provider on official letterhead with provider’s full name, license number, and phone number

Please note that the medical certificate may only be signed by a healthcare provider who is a member of a professional order with a license number such as a physician, nurse practitioner, dentist, physical assistant, physiotherapist, optometrist, psychologist, ophthalmologist or a psychiatrist.

For your protection and well-being and that of our employees, you are required to wear a medical mask, a non-medical mask, or a face covering made with multiple layers of tightly woven material (e.g., cotton or linen). It must be large enough to cover your nose, your mouth and your chin completely, without gaps, and be secured to the face with ties or ear loops.

Not allowed: Single-layer masks, scarves or bandanas, masks with exhalation valves and plastic masks will not be accepted, as they do not provide the level of protection required to limit the spread of the virus. Face shields may only be used in addition to a mask.

As masks are mandated by Transport Canada, failure to comply with these requirements will be considered misconduct that may result in sanctions and/or denial of boarding.

Passengers who cannot wear a mask due to a medical condition or disability must provide an official medical certificate along with an identification card (with or without a photo.) More information

No. Masks must be worn at all times in our stations and on board our trains, except briefly when eating or drinking.

On board our trains

We’re progressively limiting the number of seats that we sell on most of our trains to help us keep some distance between passengers, to the extent possible. However, if you’re travelling on one of our busier trains, it’s possible that you’ll be seated next to someone.

Your seat will therefore be assigned only as you board, and not when you book. If there’s a seat number indicated on your boarding pass, please ignore it.

For the Ocean and Canadian:
There is presently no seat assignment; however, if a seat number is indicated on your boarding pass please note that your seat will be assigned as you board. If a seat number is not indicated on your boarding pass, your seat will be assigned as you board.

Signage and floor markings have been installed to promote physical distancing in all our stations and in business lounges where the seating capacity has been limited. Passengers are advised to maintain physical distancing during boarding, and masks must be worn at all times.

You may ask a crew member if you can change seats. They’ll do their best to accommodate your request if space is available.

Cleaning and air circulation

As the health and safety of our passengers is our top priority, VIA Rail has introduced a series of measures so that our passengers can travel with confidence. Among those measures, our employees ensure a clean on-board environment.

VIA Rail cars are not equipped with HEPA filters but rather MERV filters with fresh air intakes. We have improved the filtration of the majority of our cars in service to ensure that we capture as many droplets and aerosols as possible that can transmit the virus. In addition, and in order to reduce the risk of transmission on board, masks must be worn at all times, physical distancing is encouraged, and cleaning protocols have been reinforced. 

Our cleaning and maintenance protocols comply with Health Canada standards. Our stations are cleaned and disinfected up to twice daily. We also pay special attention to high-touch areas such as door handles, handrails, elevators, washrooms, and light switches.

Canadian and Ocean trains

Washrooms will be sanitized every two to four hours as per health and safety recommendations, with cleaning products that have been approved by Health Canada to effectively eliminate the COVID-19 virus.

A very thorough evaluation of our air ventilation systems was completed. VIA Rail cars have MERV filters with fresh air intakes, which allow us to capture as many droplets as possible that can transmit the virus.

Passengers will be required to wear their mask at all times in stations and on board the trains, except when in an enclosed space such as a cabin or shower facility, or temporarily when eating or drinking (passengers are required to put their mask back on immediately afterwards).

Young children under the age of two and people with a medical condition or disability that makes it difficult to wear a mask are exempt from this requirement. In such cases, an official medical certificate and a government-issued photo identification will be required to attest that the passenger is unable to wear a mask. More information about the medical certificate.

While passengers will be required to remain in their cabins to respect physical distancing, they can use a reservation system to access the Dining car.

Access to common spaces (lounge cars) is currently suspended.

Passengers are advised that based on the current train configuration, some seats and rooms are backward-facing. Although we strive our best to provide forward-facing seats and rooms to passengers whenever possible, during peak periods this may not be possible.

Other

Yes. To meet public health guidelines regarding physical distancing, we’ve made certain changes to our services in order to reduce passenger-employee interactions.

On board:

  • Business class is suspended until further notice. Cart service is available for passengers in Economy class. Alcohol service is temporarily suspended.
  • Carry-on baggage assistance is available only to passengers with disabilities and/or limited mobility. We ask that you store any carry-ons in the overhead bin above your seat.

In our stations:

  • Business lounges are closed until further notice. 
  • Checked baggage service is temporarily suspended within the Québec City–Windsor Corridor, but it continues to be offered on all other VIA routes, as specified in our temporary schedules.

If you’re not feeling well on board, please let one of our employees know immediately. Our staff have been trained on preventive measures and will take the necessary steps to help you while mitigating the possible risks to the other passengers.

Carry-on baggage assistance is available only to passengers with disabilities and/or limited mobility. We ask that you store any carry-ons in the overhead bin above your seat.

Checked baggage service is temporarily suspended within the Québec City–Windsor Corridor, but it continues to be offered on all other VIA routes, as specified in our temporary schedules.

If you’ve just arrived from an international flight and need to take the train to get home, you will be allowed to board only if you meet the following criteria:

  • You confirm that you are not experiencing any COVID-19 symptoms.
  • You confirm that you have not been denied boarding by a carrier in the last 14 days.
  • You confirm that you are travelling to your quarantine destination.
  • You are wearing a mask that complies with our onboard regulations. More information