National Post (National Edition)

`Preliminar­y' step to open the border


Fully-vaccinated U.S. citizens and permanent residents will be able to enter Canada on Aug. 9 and quarantine requiremen­ts for fully-vaccinated visitors will be eliminated, the Liberal government announced Monday.

The government described the relaxation of the rules to allow non-essential travel by U.S. visitors as a “preliminar­y step” before the border is opened to fully-vaccinated visitors from all countries four weeks later, on Sept. 7.

As the Canadian government outlined its plans to relax border rules, when and how the U.S. will follow suit remained unclear. That means Canadians who want to travel to the U.S. still don't know when or how they'll be able to do so.

The border between Canada and the U.S. has been closed for non-essential travel since the COVID-19 pandemic began in the spring of 2020. Visitors from other countries, with a few exceptions, have also not been allowed to enter Canada.

Public Safety Minister Bill Blair told reporters he spoke to the U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas last Friday and outlined Canada's plans to change the border rules.

“He indicated to me at this time they had not yet made a decision. They anticipate­d current measures will likely be rolled over on July 21. They are obviously considerin­g additional measures and data,” Blair said. “But at the present time, they have not indicated a plan to make any changes in their current border restrictio­ns that are in place.”

Blair said Canada would continue working closely with the U.S., and he is “confident that as the situation continues to improve in their country, that we'll be able to maintain a reasonable balance in the measures.”

On Aug. 9, the quarantine requiremen­t will also be lifted for all fully-vaccinated individual­s arriving in Canada. That means they won't have to spend a mandatory three days of quarantine in a hotel, or do a 14-day quarantine at home.

But all travellers will still have to have a quarantine plan prepared in case officials determine they don't meet the necessary requiremen­ts. The government lifted quarantine rules for fully-vaccinated Canadians earlier this month.

Five additional airports will also be allowed to receive internatio­nal flights as of Aug. 9 — Ottawa, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Quebec City and Halifax.

“After these five airports, we will be prepared to work with other airports interested in re-establishi­ng internatio­nal flights as internatio­nal travel volumes and public health conditions evolve,” Transport Minister Omar Alghabra said at the press conference.

All travellers will still have to get tested before departure, but Canada will instead switch to random testing on arrival on Aug. 9. Officials said in a background technical briefing testing each individual on arrival wouldn't have been feasible with higher volumes of visitors.

“Only those that have been randomly selected will need to complete a day one test. This shift allows us to focus efforts on unvaccinat­ed travellers, while still keeping track of new variants,” said Health Minister Patty Hajdu.

Travellers will have to provide proof of vaccinatio­n and other COVID-19 related informatio­n to the government through the ArriveCAN app.

Current testing and 14-day quarantine requiremen­ts will stay in place for travellers who are unvaccinat­ed or partially vaccinated, with the exception of children.

Children under 12 — who aren't able to receive vaccines — won't have to quarantine. But they will face some restrictio­ns, including testing on the first and eighth day after arrival. They'll also have to avoid congregate settings, like camps, daycares and schools, for two weeks after arrival.

A government official said in the technical briefing the government won't be providing a list of approved or forbidden locations, but is encouragin­g parents to keep children from settings with large groups of people, especially indoors.

Hajdu said the “relaxed measures do allow parents to bring their children with them on errands for example, but ask parents to … not bring their children to areas where there's congregati­ons of people.”

The relaxation of the border rules doesn't mean the government is encouragin­g Canadians to travel outside the country. “The Government of Canada continues to advise Canadians to avoid non-essential travel outside of Canada — internatio­nal travel increases your risk of exposure to COVID-19 and its variants, as well as of spreading it to others,” it said in a press release.

The ongoing ban on flights from India will be extended to Aug. 21.

Business groups have been calling for the Canadian government to introduce a border reopening plan for months. The Canadian Chamber of Commerce and the Business Council of Canada both said in press releases the new border measures were encouragin­g.

“However, we are concerned that the costly and cumbersome procedures that remain for fully vaccinated travellers will discourage short visits, including many business trips,” Chamber of Commerce president and CEO Perrin Beatty said in a press release. He added other outstandin­g issues include the ArriveCAN app, which he called a “poor substitute for a secure system of interopera­ble digital health credential­s.”

Goldy Hyder, president and CEO of the Business Council of Canada, said the “establishm­ent of clear guidelines and dates will instil confidence and enable individual­s and businesses to make plans,” and will also “provide much-needed hope” for Canada's travel, tourism and hospitalit­y sectors, which have been hard-hit by the pandemic.

“We will be watching closely to see how these rules are implemente­d,” Hyder said. “There should be no unnecessar­y hurdles or wait-times at the border for travellers who satisfy all requiremen­ts.”

 ?? PETER J THOMPSON / NATIONAL POST FILES ?? While the Canadian government is lifting some border crossing restrictio­ns with the U.S. beginning Aug. 9, it is still
recommendi­ng non-essential travel for Canadians to places outside of Canada be avoided in light of COVID-19.
PETER J THOMPSON / NATIONAL POST FILES While the Canadian government is lifting some border crossing restrictio­ns with the U.S. beginning Aug. 9, it is still recommendi­ng non-essential travel for Canadians to places outside of Canada be avoided in light of COVID-19.

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