Hundreds line up at B.C.'s Peace Arch crossing as COVID border restrictions lift
U.S. travellers must be fully vaccinated 14 days prior to crossing into Canada
Hundreds of vehicles queued to cross the U.S.-Canada border from Blaine, Wash., into Surrey, B.C., Monday morning, as Americans headed to Canada after COVID restrictions were lifted or reduced for many.
Canada began allowing fully vaccinated Americans and permanent residents who currently live in the U.S. to enter Canada for non-essential travel as of Aug. 9.
Travellers must be fully vaccinated with Canadian-approved vaccines at least 14 days prior to entry and provide a COVID-19 negative test that's been taken in the past 72 hours. Canadian approved vaccines include AstraZeneca-Covisheld, Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson.
If the traveller meets the criteria, they no longer need to quarantine or be subject to a hotel stay or eight-day testing. But Canadian citizens heading into the U.S. from Canada still face a complete closure until at least Aug. 21.
Peace Arch is lined up with US travellers eager to return after long pandemic restrictions. <a href="https://t.co/f7hJHDpia4">pic.twitter.com/f7hJHDpia4</a>—@ybrend
By 7 a.m., there were more than 200 vehicles lined up at the Peace Arch border crossing headed for Canada. For many it was the first time in more than a year and a half that they could drive into B.C. for tourism or general travel.
Jason and Melissa Gregory drove up to Seattle and kept heading north.
"It's pretty exciting. I'm originally from Canada so it's nice to get back," said Jason Gregory.
Californians Jason and Melissa Gregory are excited to get back to Canada today for the first time since the pandemic hit — they are one of 100s waiting at the Peace Arch border crossing today as Canada reopens the land border to vaccinated Americans. <a href="https://t.co/COHYyyKy3f">pic.twitter.com/COHYyyKy3f</a>—@ybrend
The couple planned to check into a hotel, take a boat tour and enjoy lunch.
James Klob was headed to help out with software for machines at woodworking shops and relaxing to some country tunes as he waited up to two hours to cross the border.
"I've got to go up to go to work. I've got a shop in Canada that really needs my help. I've been waiting a year and a half to get to them. I get these guys' machines running and train them on the software," said Klob.
Residents of border communities Point Roberts, Wash., Hyder, Alaska, and the Northwest Angle in Minnesota will be allowed to enter Canada regardless of their vaccination status in the U.S.
A tentative date of Sept. 7 has been set for all other fully vaccinated foreign nationals.
The U.S. Travel Association lauded Canada's move to reopen land borders to America, saying this will help rebuild the travel economy and urged U.S. authorities to do the same.
The association says the U.S. loses $1.5-billion a month when the travel industry is stagnant or stalled by closed borders or reluctant Canadian travellers.
In 2019, it says cross border traffic from Canada was worth $22-billion in income to the U.S.
"This wise decision will spur the kind of economic recovery for our northern neighbour that's critically needed on this side of the border as well," said travel association president Roger Dow in a statement.
"The Biden administration should reciprocate this policy decision — given the high rate of vaccination across Canada — without further delay," added Dow.
But not all Canadians are thrilled with the wave of American tourists as many still fear the spread of the coronavirus, with numbers driven by the delta variant spiking again in parts of B.C.
Surrey resident Dana Quinn watched people join the long lineup at the Peace Arch border crossing that her neighbours say started forming as early as 1 a.m. on Monday.
"This is crazy," said Quinn. "Look what's happening in the Okanagan. That's going to travel back here. It's just more people."
Pre-pandemic, up to 4,800 people travelled through the border at this crossing on a busy day. Quinn also questioned why Canada moved ahead with reopening the border, when the U.S. has not done the same