The Chronicle Herald (Metro)
Easing border restrictions positive sign for tourism
The Halifax International Airport Authority, operator of the largest airport in the Atlantic region, is hopeful the slow easing of COVID restrictions by the federal government is a sign the aviation industry is about to get back to normal.
Aviation was one of the most adversely affected industries during the pandemic, and now with rising vaccination rates and declining COVID-19 cases, it is a hopeful sign of potential recovery for the Halifax Stanfield International Airport, said Leah Batstone, who speaks on behalf of the airport authority.
Provided the domestic epidemiological situation remains favourable, the government stated that it intends to open Canada's borders on Sept. 7 to any fully vaccinated travellers who have completed the full course of vaccination, with a vaccine accepted by Canadian health authorities, at least 14 days prior to entering Canada and who meet specific entry requirements.
As a first step in achieving that goal, Ottawa plans to begin allowing U.S. citizens and permanent residents who have been fully vaccinated to enter Canada for nonessential travel beginning on Aug. 9.
Transport Canada will expand the existing Notice to Airmen (NOTAM), which currently directs scheduled international commercial passenger flights into four Canadian Airports: Montréal-trudeau International Airport, Toronto Pearson International Airport, Calgary International Airport, and Vancouver International Airport.
Effective Aug. 9, international flights will be permitted to land at Halifax Stanfield International Airport; Québec City Jean Lesage International Airport; Ottawa Macdonald– Cartier International Airport; Winnipeg James Armstrong Richardson International Airport; and Edmonton International Airport.
Batstone said it is still too early to determine just how many international flights will be operational, and when, but the airport authority expects the first flights will be to New York and eventually Florida, during the cold weather months.
Brian Ellis, owner of the Cavendish Tourist Mart in Cavendish, P.E.I., says he's not getting his expectations up.
“I never put the cart before the horse,'' Ellis said, when asked if he hopes to see a bump in tourist traffic after Aug. 9. “You kind of have to take whatever comes. Hopefully, they're coming. Hopefully, we don't have many stumbling blocks left in the way. We've got to take what comes in the door anyway.''
Ellis said many tourism businesses remain in survival mode that began when things began to shut down last year. But, he's trying to remain optimistic.
“Every time things open up it improves things but we're still a long, long, long way from 2019 — a long, long way.''
Matthew Jelley, president of the Maritime Fun Group, which operates a number of amusement parks in Cavendish, said his company is not expecting to see much of an uptick in business as a result of the easing of border restrictions. Jelley also serves as mayor of the Cavendish Resort Municipality, which includes the communities of Cavendish, Stanley Bridge, Hope River, Bayview and North Rustico.
“It's not a huge component of the market, especially when it comes later in the season, but I think the opening and the reopening is a positive thing,'' he said
Subject to limited exceptions, all travellers must use the Arrivecan app or web portal to submit their travel information. If they are eligible to enter Canada and meet specific criteria, fully vaccinated travellers will not have to quarantine upon arrival in Canada.
The airports will work in cooperation with the Public Health Agency of Canada, the Canada Border Services Agency and Transport Canada, to implement the measures necessary to safely welcome international passengers as soon as possible after Aug. 9, as conditions dictate.
Leah Batstone said the airport authority has been working with the provincial government since early June to offer PCR testing in the arrivals area for passengers who request it. Authority believes that experience will be beneficial as the number of international visitors increases.
All travellers, regardless of vaccination status, will still require a pre-entry COVID19 molecular test result. However, effective Aug. 9, the government will be using a new “border testing surveillance program at airports and land border crossings.”
Fully vaccinated travellers will not need a post-arrival test unless they have been randomly selected to complete a Day 1 COVID-19 molecular test. There are no changes to the mandatory testing of unvaccinated travellers.
With the advent of increased vaccination rates in Canada, declining COVID-19 cases and reduced pressure on health care capacity, the three-night government authorized hotel stay requirement will be eliminated for all travellers arriving by air on Aug. 9.
Fully vaccinated travellers who meet the requirements will be exempt from quarantine; however, all travellers must still provide a quarantine plan and be prepared to quarantine, in case it is determined at the border that they do not meet the necessary requirements.
Margaret Murphy, associate vice-president of external affairs at Saint Mary's University, said in an email that the loosening of border restrictions is good news for international students who have received approved vaccines.
“And as those students will no longer have to self-quarantine at their arriving airport, this will greatly help our arriving international students get to their final Canadian destination sooner,” Murphy said.
However, students coming to SMU from countries where they have either have not received a vaccination or have not received a vaccination that is recognized by the Government of Canada, will still need to self-quarantine for 14 days, she said.
According to a government news release, any person who submits false information about their vaccination status could be liable to a fine of up to $750,000 or six months imprisonment or both, or prosecuted for forgery.