Information on updates to Canada’s strict border and quarantine measures this week has amounted to nothing but whispers from anonymous sources.
But if the rumours are true, changes could be coming soon, reports say, giving Canada’s aviation, travel and tourism sectors hope of a possible restart after months of inactivity.
Firstly, Radio-Canada is reporting that the federal government will announce today (June 9) that fully vaccinated Canadians returning from overseas by air will no longer have to undergo mandatory hotel quarantine.
Radio-Canada was able to confirm the news first reported by La Presse.
The report says the relaxed rules will apply to Canadians that have obtained both doses of a COVID-19 vaccine. The new rule will not apply to tourists just yet, the report claims.
Travellers will still be required to complete a quarantine at home, however. The new policy should come into force in the coming weeks, the report says.
Federal officials are expected to make an announcement at a press conference scheduled for noon today.
It remains unclear how travellers entering Canada would prove that they were fully vaccinated.
A multi-phased approach
Reopening the Canada-U.S. border was also a hot topic this week as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, making public remarks on Monday (June 7), said that the government will use a multi-phased approach to resume cross-border activity.
Current border and quarantine restrictions are set to expire on June 21.
One possible scenario being discussed for “Phase One” is to allow vaccinated travellers to avoid quarantine if they have a negative COVID-19 test.
Supporting this further, Trudeau, speaking to reporters yesterday, said that the easing of border measures will apply to Canadians who are fully vaccinated with two full doses, noting that an update is coming soon.
“We’ll have more announcements to make on measures that may be eased for those who’ve had both doses in the weeks to come…Easing of restrictions will be focused on Canadians who are fully vaccinated,” Trudeau said.
But according to a June 8 report in the Toronto Star, an announcement on how fully vaccinated people might be able to travel between Canada and the U.S. could be made this Friday.
Multiple sources told the Star that a long process of easing the layers of restrictions will soon begin at the U.S. land border, which has been closed to non-essential travel for nearly 15 months.
Trudeau, yesterday, didn’t provide any additional details on what sort of plan is in the works.
But a plan is urgently needed, however, as the Tourism Industry Association of Canada (TIAC) pointed out that same day as it launched a campaign to call on the federal government to plan for a reopening of the border.
In addition, changes to Canada’s mandatory 14-day quarantine protocol for international arrivals are also being discussed.
The Canadian government is working on a plan to loosen the 14-day self-isolation period for border-crossers who’ve had two vaccine doses, according to anonymous sources that spoke to Bloomberg.
This change would allow fully vaccinated travellers to isolate at home instead while awaiting the results of a COVID-19 test.
Once a COVID test comes back as negative, the traveller would no longer be under isolation restrictions, claims a separate report by the Globe and Mail, which also spoke to sources close to the matter.
The Canadian Press reports that Ottawa will be making an announcement on lifting its 14-day quarantine requirement for fully vaccinated travellers today.
This change could kick in by July, the report claims.
Pressure from all sides
Aviation groups, such as the National Airlines Council of Canada (NACC) and Airlines for America (A4A), have recently called on Ottawa to present a clear plan for reopening the air border before the June 21 deadline.
The Canadian Travel and Tourism Roundtable, a coalition of leaders in tourism and travel, has also urged the government to provide “clear, timely, and safe guidance on reopening travel.”
A report released in May by the COVID-19 Testing and Screening Expert Advisory Panel, a federally-appointed group of epidemiology and virology experts, is driving calls for the federal government to change its border and quarantine rules as vaccination rates increase.
The report recommends eliminating quarantine for fully vaccinated travellers, implementing changes to testing and screening, and eliminating the hotel quarantine policy. (Click here to view the entire document).
Transport Minister Omar Alghabra, speaking at a virtual town hall hosted by the Mississauga Board of Trade on May 28, said the report will influence future decisions on travel.
“It’s really going to provide good insight into our next considerations and next steps,” said Alghabra, noting that “adjustments” to border and quarantine measures will be made “in the coming weeks” as COVID-19 cases decline and vaccination rates increase.
As of Tuesday, 62.187% of the Canadian population has received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine while 8.211% of the population is fully vaccinated.
Meanwhile, Reuters reports that U.S. President Joe Biden is forming expert working groups with Canada, Mexico, the European Union and the United Kingdom to determine how to safely restart travel, a White House official said on Tuesday.
The pressure to come up with something, and soon, is on as political figures in both the U.S. and Canada call for a reopening plan as vaccination rates increase.
In a May 5 letter, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer called for a “transparent, bilateral, and public plan” based on public health data and guidance, along with standards and protocols for reopening the border.
Trudeau’s own Liberal caucus has also spoken out.
MP Wayne Easter, who chairs the House of Commons finance committee, told POLITICO on May 27 that Ottawa needs to get moving on a reopening strategy.
“As you get into July 1, Canada Day, and July 4, Independence Day, then those target dates are real pressure points for wanting to be normalized,” Easter said. “The heat’s on, and I think we absolutely must have a plan.”
This is a developing story.
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