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Canada aiming to allow vaccinated Americans into country by mid-August: PM

Last Updated Jul 16, 2021 at 5:52 am PDT

Summary

Canada-U.S. border has been closed to non-essential travel since last year

If vaccinations continue at current rate, international travel restrictions could be lifted by September, PM says

OTTAWA – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says the federal government is aiming to allow fully vaccinated U.S. citizens and permanent residents into Canada by mid-August.

Trudeau also says he told the premiers by phone that if the current vaccination rate remains on its current trajectory, fully vaccinated travellers from around the world could be arriving by early September.

“The prime minister noted that, if our current positive path of vaccination rate and public health conditions continue, Canada would be in a position to welcome fully vaccinated travellers from all countries by early September,” the Prime Minister’s Office said in a readout from Thursday’s COVID-19 call with the premiers and Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic LeBlanc.

“He noted the ongoing discussions with the United States on reopening plans, and indicated that we could expect to start allowing fully vaccinated U.S. citizens and permanent residents into Canada as of mid-August for non-essential travel.”

Trudeau also boasted Canada is leading the G20 countries in vaccination rates, with 80 per cent of eligible Canadians having received at least one vaccine dose. More than half are fully vaccinated, Trudeau said.

Pressure has been mounting on the federal government to continue easing restrictions at the border, which have been in effect since March of last year. They were first brought in as COVID-19 cases began to spike, and as concerns grew that international travel was contributing to that spike.

But as Trudeau is widely believed to be on his way to triggering a federal election campaign, the timing of reopening the border could be a factor in his thinking.

The easing of travel restrictions has already begun.

More details on Canada-U.S. border expected next week

The restrictions at the Canada-U.S. border, imposed by mutual agreement in March of last year, have been renewed on a monthly basis ever since. They are next set to expire on Wednesday, July 21.

“The prime minister indicated that ministers would share more details on these plans early next week,” the readout says.

It also says the first ministers expressed support for reopening, provided the process is accompanied by “clarity and predictability.”

They also discussed working “collaboratively” on some sort of vaccine credential and system to “enable Canadians to travel internationally with confidence.”

Questions around whether Canada needs a standardized vaccine passport have been growing lately, with many wondering if the federal government should go further than just managing such proof of inoculation for international travel.

At this point, the word from the federal government is that provinces will be policing themselves – at least when it comes to interprovincial travel.

“Different provinces will be doing different things,” Trudeau has previously said. “Where the federal government has a role to play and where we are looking is in terms of vaccine certification for international travel.”

In addition to slowly easing quarantine restrictions for fully vaccinated travellers, the country announced on Thursday that it would be ending the ban on cruise ships earlier than anticipated. The federal minister of transport said the prohibition of vessels in Canadian waters would be lifted as of Nov. 1, 2021 “if operators are able to fully comply with public health requirements.”

Cruise ship bans were first brought in last year, as COVID-19 case numbers rose and as many infections were reported on leisure vessels.

Eased restrictions for fully vaccinated travellers permitted to Canada in place since July 5

On July 5, the Canada Border Services Agency began exempting fully vaccinated Canadians, permanent residents, and other travellers permitted into this country from a 14-day quarantine requirement

These people are also exempt from the up-to-three day stay at a government-approved hotel upon arrival.

Travellers will be required to disclose their vaccination status — as will be the case for all people seeking entry to Canada. Information required will include the brand name or any other information that identifies the vaccine they received, if they were inoculated, the dates on which the shots were administered, and how many doses they received.

They will have to provide evidence of their vaccination by uploading supporting English or French documentation (or a certified translation) to the ArriveCAN app. This must be done before the traveller arrives at the Canadian border.

In addition to uploading to the app, travellers will also need to retain a copy of their vaccination documentation (either paper or electronic) to be verified at the border. They must have this documentation for two weeks after entering Canada. People who are using a translation will be required to have their original documentation as well.

To be considered for the exemption, the travellers must have received a vaccine that is currently approved for use in Canada, and must have received all required doses at least 14 days before leaving. Vaccines that are currently approved by Health Canada for emergency use are those made by Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, AstraZeneca/COVISHIELD, and Janssen.

Travellers seeking an exemption to the quarantine requirements will still be tested upon arrival, and will have to isolate until their day-1 result comes back negative.

Travellers will also still be required to have a “suitable quarantine plan, and be prepared to quarantine, in case it is determined at the border that they do not meet the necessary requirements.”

Some other measures that will remain in place include requiring travellers five years of age and older to provide proof of a negative PCR test, taken within 72 hours before their scheduled flight or arrival at a land border crossing.

Despite the easing of restrictions for some travellers, non-essential travel continues to be discouraged for Canadians.

“Although the future is looking brighter than it has for a long time with COVID-19 cases on a downward trend and vaccination efforts going well across the country, we can’t let our guard down,” Public Safety Minister Bill Blair said in June, when plans were detailed.