Canada is set to welcome back fully vaccinated travelers, including Americans, after more than a year of strict border controls.
Beginning August 9, citizens and permanent residents of the United States, who have been fully vaccinated for at least 14 days prior to travel, will be allowed entry into Canada, federal government officials said on Monday.
Then, if all goes well, Canada hopes to allow visitors from other countries on September 7, a date that could change depending on conditions.
Pressure has grown on both sides of the border to reopen, boost tourism and allow separated families to reunite (although Canada has made some exceptions for loved ones). The two countries have renewed the closure every month since the border was closed to non-essential travel on March 21, 2020. Commercial traffic has never been interrupted.
Before the pandemic, Canada was the second most popular foreign destination for Americans, behind Mexico.
Canada is ready to lift border restrictions because it has made rapid progress in vaccinating its people after months of delay. It now has higher vaccination rates than in the United States, with 50 percent of its population fully vaccinated and 75 percent of residents having received at least one dose, according to its federal public health agency.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had indicated that Canada would begin to open its border after crossing the 75% threshold for residents who are at least partially vaccinated.
Travelers must present proof of vaccination to Canadian border authorities. Canada will only accept Covid vaccines it has approved for its population: those manufactured by Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, AstraZeneca / Covishield and Janssen, the brand used by Johnson & Johnson in Canada.
At a press conference Monday, Bill Blair, the Minister of Public Safety, said he shared Canada’s border plan with his American counterparts last week, but “they have yet to make a decision. “.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said in a briefing Monday that the United States would maintain travel restrictions.
“Any decision to reopen travel will be guided by our public health and medical experts. We take this incredibly seriously, but we watch and are guided by our own medical experts, ”Ms. Psaki said. “I wouldn’t look at it through reciprocal intent.”
Representative Brian Higgins, a Democrat from western New York, criticized the Biden administration for what he called a “lack of urgency” in lifting border restrictions.
Additionally, effective August 9, Canada is dropping its mandatory quarantine requirement for government-approved hotels for air travelers and completely removing the quarantine period for eligible and fully vaccinated visitors.
Children under 12, who are not yet eligible for vaccines, or dependents of fully vaccinated travelers, will also be exempt from a 14-day quarantine. This will allow them to “move with their parents, but should avoid group places, such as camps or daycare centers,” public health officials said in briefing materials.
The highly contagious variant of the Delta virus remains a concern, so some fully vaccinated travelers will be randomly selected to perform a post-arrival test for the virus.
Regardless of vaccination status, all travelers will be required to test negative within 72 hours of arrival.
Air passengers have so far been limited to travel at four international airports in Montreal, Toronto, Calgary and Vancouver. Now the government is expanding international flights to five additional airports in Halifax, Quebec City, Ottawa, Winnipeg and Edmonton.
The Toronto Blue Jays, a Major League Baseball team, were granted a travel exemption to return to Canada on Friday, after being forced to play across the border throughout the pandemic .
Canada also let National Hockey League teams cross the border for the Stanley Cup playoffs.