Despite a 4th wave, Canada will welcome fully vaccinated foreign travellers on Tuesday
Ottawa started to relax rules last month, allowing fully vaccinated Americans to enter
On Sept. 7, Canada will open its borders to fully vaccinated travellers from across the globe, and let them skip the country's 14-day quarantine requirement.
The rule change is significant, as most non-essential foreign travellers have been barred from entering Canada since the start of the pandemic.
The federal government started to relax the rules last month, when it began allowing fully vaccinated Americans to enter and skip quarantine.
For weeks, the government has called Sept. 7 the "intended" start date for allowing in fully vaccinated foreign travellers from outside the U.S. On Friday afternoon, the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) confirmed those travellers would be welcome as of that date.
The confirmation was a relief to foreign travellers who have already made plans to visit Canada.
- Have a coronavirus question or news tip for CBC News? Email: Covid@cbc.ca
"It's awesome news," said Andy Green, of Halstead, U.K. He and his husband are set to fly to Vancouver on Sept. 9 for a 10-day vacation.
"I've been kind of looking online every day, Googling to find out at what point is the government of Canada going to make a decision?"
Opening the borders to fully vaccinated foreigners comes at a time Canada is entering a fourth wave of COVID-19 infections, with case numbers trending upward since the end of July. Most of the country's cases and hospitalizations are among the unvaccinated.
On Friday, Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam released new COVID-19 modelling that shows Canada could see up to 15,000 cases per day by the end of the month — if the vaccination rate stagnates and more restrictive public health measures are not introduced.
"This is a crucial moment," Tam said during a news conference.
Meanwhile, the number of people entering Canada more than doubled between Aug. 9 and Aug. 15, the first week that the country opened its borders to fully vaccinated American travellers.
Even so, CBSA said the COVID-19 test positivity rate for travellers has remained low: between Aug. 9 and Aug. 26, 0.19 per cent of fully vaccinated travellers tested positive after being randomly selected to take a COVID-19 test.
"Vaccinated travellers ... represent a much, much lesser risk of carrying and importing cases of COVID into the country [than unvaccinated travellers], and the data demonstrates that," said Denis Vinette, vice-president of the CBSA's COVID-19 border task force.
Tam said testing arriving travellers is just one of the protective measures Canada has put in place at its borders.
Travellers must also take a COVID-19 test before entering the country.
"With all these layers at play, this is why the continuation of the planned easing is taking place," she said. "Should there be any signals of an increase [in the] positivity rate, we can take further measures."
What are the new travel rules?
Green said he and his husband are excited about their trip to Vancouver, as they've never visited Canada.
"We've been pretty much locked down here in the U.K.," said Green. "It's been a … pretty difficult time, so we're looking forward to travelling."
Even though the couple is fully vaccinated, Green said he's still nervous about crossing the border.
"I'm kind of worried that we're going to turn up at the airport — arrive in Vancouver — and for whatever reason, we're going to have the wrong documentation."
Foreign travellers will have to meet a set of requirements to enter Canada and skip quarantine.
First, to be considered fully vaccinated, they must have received all required doses of a Health Canada-approved COVID-19 vaccine at least 14 days prior to entering.
And within 72 hours before their arrival, travellers must submit their travel information using the ArriveCAN app or by registering online. Uploaded vaccination documents must be in English or French.
"A certified translation of a foreign language certificate is completely acceptable," said CBSA's Vinette.
Beginning September 7, foreign nationals who are fully vaccinated with <a href="https://twitter.com/GovCanHealth?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@GovCanHealth</a> approved <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Covid19?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Covid19</a> vaccines may be eligible to enter Canada for discretionary (non-essential) travel. <br><br>Learn more ➡️ <a href="https://t.co/rZflJZdtTe">https://t.co/rZflJZdtTe</a> <a href="https://t.co/5Jo6HLviBV">pic.twitter.com/5Jo6HLviBV</a>—@CanBorder
Land travellers must also provide proof of a negative COVID-19 molecular test taken within 72 hours of planned entry to Canada. Air travellers must take such a test within 72 hours of the scheduled departure time of their final flight to the country.
There are also special requirements for travellers arriving from India or Morocco. Due to a recent surge in COVID-19 cases in both countries, the federal government has suspended all direct passenger flights from India until Sept. 21 and from Morocco until Sept. 29.
Currently, air passengers from those countries can only enter Canada if they show proof of a negative test taken in a different country and depart from that country to come to Canada.
New guidelines for unvaccinated children
Unvaccinated foreigners who are minors will be allowed to enter Canada with their fully vaccinated parents or guardians, but those 12 or older must quarantine.
Unvaccinated children under 12 can skip quarantine, but must follow a strict set of rules for 14 days.
WATCH | Americans reunited with loved ones at Canadian border:
For example, children must avoid all contact with people, such as seniors, who can be more susceptible to falling seriously ill from COVID-19. Children must also avoid crowded settings, such as schools, camps, daycares, amusement parks and sporting events.
They can, however, visit "essential settings," such as pharmacies or grocery stores, if wearing a mask and accompanied by their guardians.
CBSA's Vinette said travellers who don't comply could face fines and even charges.
"There are consequences should you fail to abide by that, and that will be subjected on the parents," he said.
Provincial vaccine passports
Another hurdle travellers to Canada may face is having to prove their vaccination status to enter certain venues.
In Quebec and Manitoba, people must show proof of vaccination to gain entry to many non-essential locations and activities. Ontario plans to soon implement a similar vaccine passport program, and British Columbia will put one into effect on Sept. 13.
For Green and his husband, that means four days after they arrive in Vancouver, they'll be required to show their vaccination documents, along with their passports, at restaurants, concerts, sporting events and nightclubs.
But Green said he was happy to hear the news.
'I don't want to be dining or attending a bar/club with others who are unvaccinated."