U.S.-Canada border closure is not a major stumbling block to the relationship: Former U.S. ambassador
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government presented a road map to reopening Canada’s borders to non-essential international travel beginning next month.
Fully vaccinated U.S. residents will be allowed into Canada as of Aug. 9, according to a plan unveiled Monday in Ottawa. Tourists will need to provide border officials with proof of vaccination and a negative COVID-19 test completed before arrival. They will be exempt from the 14-day quarantine and two post-arrival coronavirus tests.
Those rules will apply to travelers from other countries as of Sept. 7. Canada’s borders have been closed to leisure travel for non-citizens and residents since the pandemic began in March 2020.
“The earlier start date of Aug. 9 for fully vaccinated Americans and permanent residents is in acknowledgment and recognition of our shared border and our close relationship with the United States,” Public Safety Minister Bill Blair said at a press conference. “It will give us the opportunity to test our processes and to ensure they’re effective.”
Monday’s announcement, made by a half dozen ministers, comes as vaccination rates climb on the eve of an expected election campaign. Canada surpassed its largest trading partner on fully inoculated residents over the weekend, with 49.6 per cent of the total population vaccinated compared to 48.6 per cent in the U.S.
“Canadians have worked hard and sacrificed for each other, and because of that work, we can take these next steps safely,” Health Minister Patty Hajdu said in a news release.
The U.S. isn’t expected to reciprocate the looser rules for land travel at this point, Blair said, meaning fully vaccinated Canadians won’t yet be able to drive across the border.
“As we made decisions around reopening to the world in early September, and to American travelers a few weeks before that, we kept the American government fully apprised,” Trudeau told reporters in a Toronto suburb later Monday. “We will continue to work with them, but understand and respect that every country makes its own decisions about what it does with its borders.”
Some travelers entering Canada will be selected at random for mandatory on-arrival testing, but it won’t be systematic, the ministers said.
Unvaccinated children under the age of 12 will no longer be obliged to quarantine. However, they will need to follow enhanced social distancing rules, which will permit them to move around with their parents but avoid group settings like overnight and day camps.
The new regulations also expand the number of airports authorized to receive international flights, which had been restricted to Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver and Calgary. Beginning next month, international air travelers will also be able to land in Halifax, Quebec City, Ottawa, Winnipeg and Edmonton. Flights from India will continue to be barred due to concerns over the prevalence of the delta variant in that country.
The ministers also announced the end of Canada’s mandatory 3-day hotel quarantine, which had been in place since February.
Pressure has been mounting on Trudeau to lay out a detailed reopening plan for months, with airlines and the tourism industry warning of a potential second lost summer season.
Companies have found that travel restrictions hurt their ability to do business, especially with the U.S., according to the head of Canada’s export agency.
“It’s the lack of certainty when they get to the border whether they will be able to get across or not, because the power there rests always with the border agent,” Mairead Lavery, chief executive officer at Export Development Canada, said in an interview before Monday’s announcement.
--With assistance from Danielle Bochove.
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