Border restrictions for fully vaccinated Canadians loosen, but plan for wider reopening remains unclear
Quarantine period still in effect for all other travellers
While border restrictions started to loosen today for some Canadians, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau would only say that steps toward reopening the U.S.-Canada border will be rolled out over the next few weeks.
As of this morning, Canadians and permanent residents who have completed their doses of a COVID-19 vaccine approved for use in Canada are now able to forgo the 14-day quarantine, which has been a requirement since March of last year. The measures also cover those registered under the Indian Act and some foreign nationals already allowed to enter Canada, including international students.
Eligible travellers who arrive by air will also be allowed to skip out on the federal government's required stay in a government-approved hotel.
However, the travel restrictions between Canada and the United States preventing all non-essential trips, including tourism, are to remain in place until at least July 21.
"We're very hopeful that we're going to see new steps on reopening announced in the coming weeks," Trudeau said during an announcement in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont. today.
"We're going to make sure that we're not seeing a resurgence of COVID-19 cases because nobody wants to go back to further restrictions, after having done so much and sacrificed so much to get to this point."
WATCH | Trudeau on reopening border
Today's gradual reopening marks the first time eligible travellers have to start showing electronic proof of their vaccinations. Those entering the country must electronically submit COVID-19-related information to the government's ArriveCAN app before arriving, meet the pre- and on-arrival test requirements, be asymptomatic and have a suitable quarantine plan.
Travellers are required to submit a suitable quarantine plan even if they're "seeking the fully vaccinated exemption," says the government's website.
The federal government also has said children who aren't fully vaccinated will be able to go home with their parents, but must quarantine and follow testing rules.
The Canada Border Services Agency said travellers arriving before 12:01 a.m. EDT on July 5 would not be eligible for the reduced public health measures. When the updated guidelines were first announced, the cutoff time had been set for 11:59 p.m. Monday, but that was changed.
Dr. Sumon Chakrabarti, an infectious disease physician with Trillium Health Partners, said the risk calculus is at a point where easing the border restrictions makes sense.
"Before, all we talked about was COVID risk. But now that we've been able to defang the virus with vaccines — these vaccines are wonderful — we can now bring in a risk trade-off," he said.
"We now know bringing in travellers can be done because the illness isn't as severe."
With files from The Canadian Press