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Canada is cracking down on its vaccine exemption for athletes.
Starting January 15, any unvaccinated professional or amateur athletes will no longer be able to enter Canada, said minister of public safety Marco Mendicino on Friday.
As of right now, NBA and MLB players that have yet to receive one of the country’s approved COVID-19 vaccines are able to come into Canada under a national interest exemption that was made in September of this year. For the NHL, the league acted on its own accord and barred any unvaccinated player from playing in any of their seven cities north of the border.
But with the current availability of vaccines, Mendocino and the Canadian government have decided to change that short-lived status quo.
"As of January 15th, there will no longer be an exemption in place for professional and amateur athletes," Mendocino said.
Even with the previous exemption, approximately 95 percent of NBA players are fully vaccinated, and mid-season, MLB reported that 23 of its 30 teams had reached the 85 percent vaccine threshold. For the more strict NHL, all but one player have been vaccinated as of mid-November.
These rates will become more important in the new year once the exemption is lifted. High-profile unvaccinated NBA star Kyrie Irving is scheduled to visit the Toronto Raptors on Jan. 26, but it doesn't seem like he will be able to make trip up north with his Brooklyn Nets, as the team has been without one of its starting guards all season. Irving has already been barred from playing home games, due to New York state vaccine restrictions, and the Nets have not allowed him to play this season on the road either.
As Irving trade talks heat up, this is yet another blow for any NBA team that might be interested.
Mendocino also mentioned that there will be no exemption for individuals attempting to reunite with family, international students over 18 years old, cross-border essential workers, and more temporary foreign workers and essential service providers. The country is vying for more people to get jabbed.
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