VANCOUVER -- Canadian border guards are now required to wear masks whenever there is a reasonable expectation that they might be interacting with the public, a shift from the Canada Border Services Agency's previous policy that did not require face coverings.

The CBSA changed its internal guidance around mask-wearing on Wednesday, the agency told CTV News Vancouver in an email statement.

"All uniformed and non-uniformed staff are now required to wear a surgical mask at all times when interacting with the public or if there is a reasonable expectation the staff will be required to engage with the public and all instances where physical distancing is not possible," the CBSA said.

The requirement applies even in situations where employees are separated from the public by Plexiglas partitions, the agency said, adding that staff members who don't interact directly with the public must wear masks when interacting with colleagues in settings where physical distancing is not possible.

The change comes less than a month after CTV News reported on the concerns of Thomas Winkler, a B.C. resident who was fined $1,000 in September for failing to stop at the Fraser border crossing near Alaska, despite his claim that he never actually crossed the border into the United States. 

One of the things that frustrated Winkler about the experience was that one of the CBSA employees who searched his vehicle did not wear a mask while doing so.

At the time, the CBSA told CTV News face coverings were not part of Health Canada's guidelines for its officers, but that personal protective equipment - including gloves and masks - was available for those employees who wanted it.

In its statement to CTV News on Thursday, the agency described the policy change as an "extra step" for the benefit of the public and its employees, but not a mandate from Health Canada.

"While Health Canada’s Occupational Health Advisory does not require CBSA employees in public-facing functions to wear non medical masks or surgical masks when physical distancing is possible, the CBSA has taken the extra step to revise its own guidance to better ensure the health and safety of employees and those with whom we interact," the agency said.