Canada lifting restrictions for fully vaccinated travellers starting in two weeks

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OTTAWA —
Canada will be lifting most international travel restrictions for Canadians, permanent residents, and certain foreign nationals who are fully vaccinated, starting in early July.

Effective July 5 at 11:59 p.m. EDT travellers who are currently able to enter Canada under the existing rules will be able to do so without having to self-isolate for 14 days, taking a test on day eight, or having to stay in a quarantine hotel upon arrival, if they are fully immunized against COVID-19. 

“As we’ve told Canadians all along, easing measures at the border will happen as we see our communities increasingly become safe,” said Health Minister Patty Hajdu in announcing the new plan on Monday. “If you are planning to travel internationally this summer, remember to check the requirements of the country that you’re visiting.”

The change does not apply to fully vaccinated non-citizens who are looking to visit for non-essential reasons, and for any Canadian traveller who is not fully-vaccinated, the existing suite of travel restrictions will remain in effect.

“It is the travellers responsibility to plan ahead, to understand their obligations, and to ensure that they are eligible. They should do this before heading to the border,” Public Safety Minister Bill Blair said.

In order to be considered fully vaccinated, travellers will have had to have received a full series of a vaccine, or a combination of vaccines that have been authorized by Health Canada — Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca/COVISHIELD, and Johnson & Johnson — at least 14 days prior to entering the country. Officials briefing reporters on the new procedures said that the vaccinations do not have to be administered in Canada, and the list of applicable vaccines could change over time.

Proof of vaccination will be required in order to be exempted from the quarantine measures, and travellers are being asked to either have a paper or digital copy of their vaccination documentation, and will have to submit COVID-19-related information into the federal government’s ArriveCAN app before arriving in Canada. This is the first step towards a vaccination passport, and the onus of using a digital program prompted questions to officials about the potential limitations this poses for those who are unable to utilize the technology.

The government is requiring all travelers — whether arriving by land or air — to now disclose vaccination information at the border including vaccination status and the timing and brand of vaccine received, they say to help identify “vaccine-escape variants.”

Among the information the federal government is making mandatory to submit through the app: travel and contact details; quarantine plans, and a COVID-19 symptom self-assessment.

People are being told to download the “most up-to-date” version of the ArriveCAN app being released on July 5. Entering fraudulent information into the app will result in fines of up to $750,000 or six months in prison.

The requirement to be asymptomatic remains, as do the mandatory pre-departure and on-arrival molecular testing requirements for fully vaccinated travellers. Travellers will have to have an adequate quarantine plan in place in case border agents determine a period of self-isolation is required, and will have to keep copies of their test results for 14 days upon arrival.

If a fully vaccinated traveller does test positive they will be required to follow local public health guidance and quarantine requirements.

In situations where unvaccinated children are travelling with fully vaccinated parents, they will not have to stay in a hotel, but will have to isolate at home. In this situation, federal officials said that the parents will be able to leave the house during their children’s isolation.

This first step in a “phased” border reopening changes nothing for travellers who have yet to receive a vaccine, or who have just had one shot. These travellers will still have to abide by the full suite of existing travel measures, including the three-night stay in a quarantine hotel and a 14-day self-isolation, despite a federal panel calling for the quarantine hotel program to cease.

The government also announced Monday that in this first step of reopening, international commercial flights will continue to be funneled through the Montréal-Trudeau International Airport, Toronto Pearson International Airport, Calgary International Airport and Vancouver International Airport.

There has yet to be any new information or timelines presented about when Canada’s international and U.S. travel restrictions will be further eased, with the latest extension in effect until July 21. The government continues to “strongly advise” that Canadians avoid non-essential travel outside of the country.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is currently in self-isolation following his recent trip to Europe for the G7 Summit and other high-level meetings with world leaders.

The move to begin gradually easing border restrictions comes as Canada hit a key vaccination milestone over the weekend, seeing 75 per cent of those eligible having one shot and 20 per cent fully vaccinated.

Blair said Monday that while the border restrictions—introduced 15 months ago early in the COVID-19 pandemic—were never going to be permanent, a higher rate of vaccinations both in Canada and abroad will be needed before throwing out all international travel limits is safe.

“We recognize that people are anxiously awaiting to reopen the border,” Blair said. “The results of data collected in the first phase, such as the test results of vaccinated travelers will also help to help us to determine the timing of future border measures. Discussions are ongoing with provincial territorial, and international partners, with the aim of allowing for the essential travel of fully vaccinated foreign nationals into Canada, in the coming months.”

More to come.

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