The Canadian government has provided official details about ending its mandatory hotel quarantine and isolation rules for air travellers who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
Confirming earlier reports that began circulating Wednesday morning (June 9), Health Minister Patty Hajdu and others, at a lunchtime press conference, shared details on what Canadians can expect in the coming weeks.
Adding to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s previous remarks about taking a phased approach to adjusting border measures, Minister Hajdu said the first stage will involve allowing fully vaccinated people who are currently permitted to enter Canada (Canadians, permanent residents, essential workers, foreign students) to do so without the requirement to stay in a government-authorized hotel.
The changes will apply to only those who are eligible to enter Canada and who have received a full vaccine approved by Health Canada (Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson).
The exemption won’t apply to tourists or foreign business travellers that aren’t essential workers.
"We’re not changing anything yet on the right of entry to Canada," she said. "The categories that are approved for entry will remain the same."
Incoming travellers will have to be fully vaccinated for 14 days or more and will still be required to obtain a negative pre-departure PCR test.
Individuals will also still be required to undergo a PCR test on arrival, Minister Hajdu said, and must still have a “suitable quarantine plan” in place.
Vaxxed individuals, however, will be able to quarantine at home until they receive a negative result to their day one test upon arrival, noted Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs Dominic LeBlanc.
Minister Hajdu said the "general ballpark" start date for implementing the change is the first week of July.
She urged Canadians to follow through with their vaccination appointments.
"If we can can keep our communities safe and free of COVID, then we will not have to return to measures that are so difficult for everyone, from a social and economic perspective," Minister Hajdu explained.
Minister LeBlanc said that a vaccine passport system will 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, Minister LeBlanc added.
To that end, he 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.
The 20-75 benchmark
The update comes as nearly 70 per cent of Canadians have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.
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 ratio (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 previously expected, she said.
Canada will be receiving 2.4 million doses of Pfizer every week during the month of 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.
Vaccine passports coming
Canada is still working on a digital 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.”
The platform will recognize both vaccinated foreign travellers entering Canada while equipping Canadians with health credentials for travel abroad, Alghabra said on May 28.
Vaccine certificates will be on Canada's agenda at the G7 Summit in the U.K. from June 11-13.
This is a developing story.
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