(CNN)Shortly after North America’s busiest land border crossing reopened following a blockade by Canadians protesting Covid-19 mandates, the nation’s most populous province on Monday announced plans to loosen pandemic restrictions.
The bridge reopened Sunday night, allowing “the free flow of commerce between the Canada and US economies once again,” the Detroit International Bridge Company said.
The leader of Ontario announced the next day he plans to drop the province’s vaccine passport requirements on March 1 if its Covid-19 hospitalization rates continue to improve.
“The removal of these measures has always been our objective and something we have collectively worked towards for months now,” Premier Doug Ford announced.
“Let me be very clear: We’re moving in this direction because it’s safe to do so,” Ford said. “Today’s announcement is not because of what’s happening in Ottawa or Windsor but despite it.”
The “Freedom Convoy” protesters’ grievances stem from Canada’s new mandate requiring truckers to either be fully vaccinated when crossing the Canadian-US border or face a two-week quarantine.
The protest has attracted support from thousands more Canadians — even some who are fully vaccinated but say they want all Covid-19 preventative measures dropped.
About 4 in every 5 Canadians are fully vaccinated, Johns Hopkins University data shows. And nearly 90% of the country’s truckers are fully vaccinated and eligible to cross the border, according to the Canadian government.
Among the relaxed restrictions on tap in Ontario are the removal of some event capacity limits as soon as Thursday. Ontario also has a goal to “lift proof of vaccination requirements for all settings” on March 1.
But Ontario residents must still wear masks “for just a little bit longer,” Ford said.
“This is an important layer of protection that will allow us to proceed with our reopening plans.”
Canada’s capital gets flooded by protesters
Members of the protest convoy also have blocked Ottawa’s downtown core and impeded border crossings between Alberta and Montana; Manitoba and North Dakota; and British Columbia and Washington state.
Truckers and their supporters have gathered in Ottawa since January 29 to rally against mask mandates, lockdowns, restrictions on gatherings and other Covid-19 preventative measures.
Protesters will remain in the capital city “for as long as it takes for governments across Canada to end all mandates” associated with Covid-19, Freedom Convoy organizers said earlier this month.
But Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson said Sunday that he had reached an agreement with organizers for them to leave residential areas of downtown and restrict their demonstrations to streets directly in front of Canada’s national parliament.
Residents this month have reported rock throwing, property damage and harassment by protesters. Police said they had opened dozens of investigations, including into alleged hate crimes.
Some downtown Ottawa businesses have had to shut down temporarily.
American officials worried similar protests could soon erupt in the US — perhaps near Sunday’s Super Bowl in Southern California. And right-wing media outlets have raised the prospect of like-minded rallies in the US and offered positive coverage of those in Canada.
But so far, the border blockades have been concentrated on the Canadian side.
Other border crossings blocked
Border blockades have emerged in several Canadian provinces at the US border.
Protesters have used semitrailers — and sometimes farm equipment and other vehicles — to block the Coutts border access point between Alberta and Montana.
About 50 vehicles have blocked access since Thursday to the Canadian-US border at Emerson, Manitoba, and Pembina, North Dakota, the Manitoba Royal Canadian Mounted Police said Saturday.
And in British Columbia, four people have been arrested near the Pacific Highway border crossing in Surrey, the national police said Sunday. “A few vehicles” broke through a police barricade there, they said.
“While no injuries were reported as a result of the incident, this had the potential for harm to pedestrians and first responders,” ” Royal Canadian Mounted Police Cpl. Vanessa Munn said.
“This kind of behavior will not be tolerated and is being investigated.”
Shortly before the Ambassador Bridge reopened, the mayor of Windsor said the economic fallout from the blockade was ending.
“Today, our national economic crisis at the Ambassador bridge came to an end,” Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens said Sunday.
CNN’s Joe Sutton, Theresa Waldrup and Paul P. Murphy contributed to this report.