The Association of Canadian Travel Agencies (ACTA) is calling Ottawa's latest easing of travel restrictions "welcome news."
The federal government will soon exempt fully vaccinated returning permanent residents of Canada from hotel quarantine as well as from the 14-day quarantine once they receive a negative result on their COVID test taken on arrival in Canada.
The exemption won’t apply to tourists or foreign business travellers that aren’t essential workers.
The changes, announced on Wednesday (June 9), are expected to kick in during the first week of July, officials said at a press conference.
"It shows that the government is finally looking at their own expert panel report, which contains several recommendations that ACTA has also been asking for," ACTA President Wendy Paradis said in a statement later that day.
Paradis is referring to the COVID-19 Testing and Screening Expert Advisory Panel, a federally-appointed group of epidemiology and virology experts that, last month, issued a data-driven report calling for changes to testing and screening at the border, as well as the elimination of the mandatory hotel quarantine policy.
(Click here to view the document).
While Wednesday's announcement marked a step forward in reopening the travel sector, more changes need to happen, and soon, Paradis said.
"We hope that more of the panel’s recommendations are enacted quickly to salvage the summer travel season for Canadians and the tourism and hospitality industries," she said. "The government has signalled it may open the border to more traffic – likely tied to vaccinations also. But without significant reductions in the quarantine requirements, the travel advisories and other restrictions, the travel industry remains largely in limbo."
The "big question," Paradis said, is what will be accepted as proof of vaccine when the changes kick in.
"This brings up the question of some sort of vaccine passport or official record," Paradis said. "We look forward to the details which have not yet been made clear.”
The scoop on proof
Canada is currently working on a health pass that would allow travellers to show proof of a COVID-19 vaccination, or recovery, from the virus.
Transport Minister Omar Alghabra has already met with his counterparts in the G7 to discuss the coordination of a platform that, he says, “works well with other countries.”
Minister Dominic LeBlanc, on Wednesday, said that a vaccine passport system will indeed be used for providing proof of vaccination at border entry points.
"We'll be working out the technical details in the coming days," he said.
But a national certification system may not be ready two, three weeks from now, he noted.
LeBlanc said there will be "flexibility" when the changes are applied, suggesting that CBSA agents will have tools to determine if whether a Canadian returning from abroad has, indeed, been fully vaccinated.
Vaccine certificates will be on Canada's agenda at the G7 Summit in the U.K. from June 11-13.
The update came as nearly 70 per cent of Canadians have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.
On Wednesday, Chief Public Health Officer of Canada Dr. Theresa Tam outlined parameters for deciding when to enter the next stage of easing border measures.
She said a 20-75 rate (20% fully vaccinated, 75% partially vaccinated) would be an “acceptable” benchmark for advancing forward.
“Based on modelling data, I think [the benchmark] is going to [protect] hospitals from being overwhelmed,” she said. “Our border measures will take these benchmarks into account.”
Second doses are expected to arrive in provinces faster than expected, she said.
Canada will be receiving 2.4 million doses of Pfizer every week during June. Additionally, Moderna says 7 million doses will arrive in Canada, also this month.
In total, Canada is expecting delivery of at least 55 million doses by the end of July.
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