While work on reopening the Canada-U.S. land border has apparently begun, the world’s longest international border crossing will remain closed for at least another month, reports indicate.
CTV News, on Tuesday (May 18), reported that border restrictions with the United States will be in place until June 21.
The order’s deadline was set to expire this Friday (May 21), and while no official announcement has been made just yet, the expectation, based on the current health situation, is that it will be extended.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, on Tuesday, said that easing restrictions at the land border, which have been in place since March 2020, will depend on low COVID-19 cases and vaccination rates.
Trudeau told reporters that more than 75 per cent of Canadians need to be vaccinated before restrictions are loosened (the PM didn't specify if "vaccinated" meant one dose or two full doses of a COVID-19 vaccine).
“We are not yet out of this third wave,” Trudeau said. “We know there are still real concerns around transmission of the virus, but we will continue to work with our partners and hopefully get to a better place when the time is appropriate.”
The Prime Minister, without going into details, said the government is working on a framework for relaxing travel restrictions with the U.S.
According to anonymous sources Bloomberg spoke with over the weekend, officials are exploring the idea of a “two-track system” in which quarantine and testing requirements would be relax for vaccinated travellers.
Ontario's Doug Ford government has been calling on Ottawa to strengthen its measures at the border.
Last month, the province asked federal officials to extend the mandatory three-day hotel quarantine measure to land entry points as well (the protocol, currently, applies to international air arrivals only).
Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic LeBlanc issued a statement on Tuesday, reiterating that Ottawa is open to helping provinces based on their individual public health needs.
"We always welcome the opportunity to discuss how we can work together. We have provided Ontario with extra polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing capabilities through the Safe Restart Agreement. Ontario is also within their jurisdiction to institute domestic travel quarantine. As we have seen in other jurisdictions, it is an effective public health measure. We continue to stand ready to support the Government of Ontario should they introduce additional measures within their jurisdiction," said LeBlanc.
The third wave of COVID-19 is a "direct result of community transmission," Le Blanc noted, as Ontario Public Health data shows that less than 1 per cent of transmission is a result of international travel.
While non-essential traffic at the land border is prohibited, the flow of essential goods and services, and essential workers and others who meet certain requirements are allowed to cross.
While the land border is closed, Canadians are still able to fly to the U.S. due to a well-known loophole in the system.
Back on track
As of Tuesday night, 46.4% of the Canadian population has received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, according to an online vaccination tracker.
This progress, notably, puts Canada on track to surpass the U.S. in the proportion of the population vaccinated with one dose.
Currently, just 3.9% of Canadians are fully vaccinated. However, that stat is expected to rise in the coming weeks as more doses arrive in Canada.
This week, Canada will receive a shipment of 4.5 million total doses from Pfizer and Moderna.
Trudeau has also noted that Canadians can expect 9 million doses of Pfizer-branded vaccines to be available this June alone.
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