Canada will let fully vaccinated American travellers into country on Aug. 9, others on Sept. 7

The federal government announced Monday it will allow fully vaccinated American travellers into the country starting on Aug. 9, and extend that easing of border measures to other foreign nationals almost a month later.

Government officials said that as of 12:01 a.m. EDT on Aug. 9, American citizens and permanent residents of the U.S. will be able to travel to Canada for discretionary purposes if they’ve received a full course of one of the four COVID-19 vaccines approved for use in Canada at least 14 days prior to arrival.

“This preliminary step allows for the Government of Canada to fully operationalize the adjusted border measures ahead of September 7, 2021, and recognizes the many close ties between Canadians and Americans,” a press release states.

The Canada-U.S. border was shut down to non-essential travel by mutual agreement on March 21, 2020 and the restrictions have been renewed each month since.

Unvaccinated American children under the age of 12 and unvaccinated dependent children will be able to accompany a fully vaccinated parent, step-parent, or legal guardian and forgo the 14-day quarantine but must follow relevant public health guidelines in the region they’re visiting.

At this time, the U.S. has not announced similar plans to lift restrictions for Canadians seeking entry into the country for discretionary purposes.

Other fully vaccinated foreign nationals will have to wait until Sept. 7 to travel to Canada for discretionary purposes and only if the domestic COVID-19 situation continues to remain “favourable.”

All travellers will be required to upload proof of vaccination to the ArriveCAN app or website before they board their flight to Canada and carry their vaccine certificate with them to present to border officials.

The government also announced on Monday that it would expand the number of airports accepting international flights from four to nine, starting Aug. 9.

Beyond the Montreal-Trudeau International Airport, Toronto Pearson International Airport, the Calgary International Airport, and Vancouver International Airport, the Quebec City Jean Lesage International Airport, Ottawa Macdonald-Cartier International Airport, Winnipeg James Armstrong Richardson International Airport, Edmonton International Airport and Halifax Stanfield International Airport will also be accommodating international arrivals.

“These airports, in co-operation with the Public Health Agency of Canada, the Canada Border Services Agency and Transport Canada, are working to implement the measures necessary to safely welcome international passengers as soon as possible after August 9, as conditions dictate,” the release states.

By the same date, the government says it will scrap the mandatory three-night stay at an assigned hotel upon arrival into Canada for non-vaccinated travellers, though they will still be required to present a suitable quarantine plan. As of July 5, those fully vaccinated are exempt from quarantine.

Fully vaccinated travellers will still be required to submit a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours before boarding their flight, but will be able to forgo the mandatory post-arrival test unless they’re randomly selected to complete one.

Transport Minister Omar Alghabra also announced the ban on all commercial and private flights from India – imposed on April 22 – will be extended due to the reported high rates of the Delta variant.

According to government data, between July 1 and 8, of the 67, 890 tests administered at air points of entry, only 0.3 per cent returned positive. Of the 32, 110 tests administered at land borders, 0.1 per cent returned positive.

Health Minister Patty Hajdu told reporters that the low positive test results at the border, combined with high vaccination rates in Canada, have allowed the government to proceed with the changes.

“The data that we’re basing the decision on today is really about a growing sense of the protection of vaccination both for infection and for onward transmission…nearly 80 per cent of eligible people in Canada have received at least one shot of a COVID-19 vaccine and over 50 per cent are fully vaccinated,” Hajdu said.

“And then finally, of course, international data, do we see the rise of potentially more infective variants that are emerging and creating breakthrough cases."

The news comes amid a pressure campaign mounted by the business community and lawmakers on either side of the Canada-U.S. border who say the prolonged measures will have long-term devastating impacts on local economies.

Public Safety Minister Bill Blair said they’ve been working closely with their American counterparts on the border restrictions.

“I’m confident that as the situation continues to improve in their country that they we’ll be able to maintain a reasonable balance between the measures, but we’re doing what’s right for Canadians and we’re doing it based on the advice that we’re receiving from Canadian medical advisers,” said Blair.

REACTION

The CEO of the Business Council of Canada, Goldy Hyder, said he is encouraged by the news.

“The establishment of clear guidelines and dates will instill confidence and enable individuals and businesses to make plans. It will also provide much-needed hope for Canada’s hard-hit travel, tourism and hospitality sectors,” a statement to CTVNews.ca reads.

Hyder said the organization will be watching closely at how the rules are implemented, specifically whether there is “unnecessary” wait times at points of entry.

Perrin Beatty, the president and CEO of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, echoed this sentiment.

“It’s an important step forward, some partial reopening is significant in that the government is prepared to allow some more mobility across the border. There’s still a number of questions we have about how this is administered,” he said on CTV News Channel on Monday.

The Canadian Airports Council also weighed in, stating that the steps will help a battered industry regain its footing.

“The measures announced today will greatly facilitate recovery in air travel to Canada over the coming months, and improve the travel experience. It is a testament to the hard work of Canadians to get vaccinated,” said CAC President Daniel-Robert Gooch in a statement.

Gooch added that while airports are pleased five additional communities will gain access to international travel, prior to the pandemic more than 20 others had regular flights to the U.S., Caribbean, and Mexico and are “anxious to confirm when international air access will return.”