A Canadian advisory body said Justin Trudeau’s government should relax its stringent border rules for vaccinated travellers and drop a requirement that international air passengers quarantine in a hotel when they arrive.

In a report released Thursday, the COVID-19 Testing and Screening Expert Advisory Panel said it’s time for Canada to adopt different entry rules for travellers who’ve been vaccinated. People who have received two shots should be exempt from quarantine and pre-departure virus tests, said the panel, which was created in November by the government.

Right now, most people entering Canada have to endure a 14-day quarantine, and those arriving through airports are supposed to spend as much as three days in an approved hotel while they wait for test results -- though hundreds have opted to skip the hotels and pay fines instead.

About half of Canadians have now received a first shot of a vaccine and infections have declined in most of the country, putting pressure on the government to adjust rules that have reduced international travel to a trickle. Trudeau’s government has begun to outline the conditions for removing restrictions at the Canada-U.S. border, but hasn’t set out a timeline.

“Getting the vaccination numbers up above 75 per cent across the country is going to allow for a much better posture on reopening, including around what we do with the U.S. border and international borders,” Trudeau said at a news conference Thursday. The prime minister’s office wasn’t able to clarify whether he meant 75% with one dose or fully vaccinated.

In a statement, Health Minister Patty Hajdu and Public Safety Minister Bill Blair defended “some of the strictest travel and border measures in the world” as effective and said the government would review data and “be prudent in its approach” to changing measures.

Costly Hotels

Under the panel’s recommendations, partially-vaccinated people would need a pre-departure test for COVID-19 and another on arrival. If the tests are negative, they’d be free of quarantine.

The panel criticized the hotel quarantine as expensive for the government and for travellers -- leading people to fly to the U.S. and come into Canada by car. The three-day length is also “inconsistent with the incubation period” of the virus, it said.

“Given the current Canadian context, the panel recommends a strong focus on adherence to quarantine rather than modifying the hotel quarantine program to become more like those in place in New Zealand and Australia,” it said.