Preliminary talks have begun within the federal government about reopening the border with the United States, according to Bloomberg.
Citing multiple sources, Bloomberg reports that one proposal currently being considered by the Trudeau government is whether to implement a “two-track system” that would allow for eased quarantine and testing measures for vaccinated travellers.
The Canada-U.S. international border has been closed since March 2020 to most non-essential travel.
In late 2020, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau suggested the border closure would be in place for the foreseeable future but with the U.S. vaccinating its population at an accelerated pace, it could speed up the reopening of the international border to allow for non-essential travel in some capacity.
“Until the virus is significantly more under control everywhere around the world, we’re not going to be releasing the restrictions at the border,” said Trudeau in December.
This report is welcome news to Tourism Industry Association of BC Chief Walt Judas. But he says what the industry really wants is clear signals.
“A plan or a process that’s in place to point to a time when we can re-open our borders,” he explained. “That is really the lifeline for our industry, to get people moving again,” he said.
Judas adds the tourism sector will need time to prepare.
“It’s not like you can flick a switch and start welcoming people from all over the world. It takes a while to not only bring people back, but to train them. There’s a recruiting process that’s involved,” he said.
While timelines for any re-opening of the border haven’t been made clear, Judas says the tourism sector in B.C. is banking on inter-Canadian travel through the summer, with hopes of seeing Americans and others returning to Canada sometime in the fall.
On Thursday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the U.S. announced it will ease indoor mask-wearing guidance for fully vaccinated people, allowing them to safely stop wearing masks inside in most places.
The new guidance comes as the aggressive U.S. vaccination campaign begins to pay off.
U.S. virus cases are at their lowest rate since September, deaths are at their lowest point since last April and the test positivity rate is at the lowest point since the pandemic began.
Brian Higgins, a Democrat, urged U.S. President Joe Biden to “directly engage” with Prime Minister Trudeau in order to widen the definition of essential travellers by the end of May, with an eye toward fully reopening the border by early July.
“Trends in vaccination and the most recent guidance from the CDC affirm that the time is right to do this safely and effectively,” the letter reads.
“This decision underscores the minimal risk Americans will pose to Canadians when crossing the border to visit family and property.”
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Nearly 60 percent of American adults have received at least one dose of the vaccine, compared with just 5.5 percent four months ago.
Similarly, Canada has made strides in recent weeks due to an influx of COVID-19 vaccine shipments courtesy of Pfizer and Moderna.
This led Health Canada to announce Friday that once 75 percent of Canadians have been treated with one shot, and 20 percent of the population is fully immunized, it would begin to gradually lift COVID-19 restrictions country-wide.
Speaking in Ottawa on Tuesday, Trudeau said Canada can have a “one dose summer” that will set the country up for “a two-dose fall.”
Once that happens, the Prime Minister admitted it is then “we’ll be able to talk about going back to school, back to work, and back to more normality.”
“Almost 50 percent of eligible adults have received at least one shot. Canada is in the top 3 countries of the G20 in terms of daily vaccinations.”
Procurement Minister Anita Anand says Canada can expect to receive 4.5 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna next week.
Anand says Pfizer is moving up its scheduled shipments ahead of the Victoria Day weekend, reassuring Canadians that the country is among the global leaders in its vaccination effort.
With files from Kait Bolongaro of Bloomberg and James McCarten of The Canadian Press