As Canada gets ready to enter its first stage of easing travel restrictions, new details have emerged that could explain how travellers will prove that they are fully vaccinated – a requirement that will, as federal officials revealed earlier this month, play a key part in the restart of international travel.
CBC reports that the Canadian government, starting in early July, will launch its first phase of a vaccine certification program for travellers entering the country.
The new feature will be added to the already-built ArriveCAN app, a mobile tool, launched last year, that currently requires travellers to submit their contact information, COVID-19 symptom self-assessment and quarantine plan before boarding their flight to Canada.
The report confirms statements previously made by Health Minister Patty Hajdu, who told CBC on May 1 that the government was considering this approach.
According to CBC, the app will allow travellers to take a photo or upload a snapshot of their vaccine documentation and load it into the platform before going through customs.
The update has not yet been formally announced by government officials.
CBC said that it got its information from a federal government source, which it did not identify because the source is not authorized to speak publicly on the issue.
Documents that travellers load into the app will stay in the app and not be transferred elsewhere, said CBC’s source.
Let the restart begin
The new information, though unconfirmed, represents an important piece in Canada’s travel restart puzzle.
On June 9, Ottawa announced that it will soon relax quarantine measures for travellers who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
Part of a multi-phase plan, Canada, starting in July, will allowed fully-vaxxed Canadians, permanent residents, essential workers and foreign students to enter the country without the requirement to stay in a government-authorized hotel.
The changes will only apply to those who have received a full vaccine approved by Health Canada (Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson).
The exemption will not apply to tourists or foreign business travellers that aren’t essential workers.
Eligible 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, a policy that has been in place since January.
Individuals must also undergo a PCR test on arrival and quarantine, at home, until a negative test result is processed.
Coming this fall
Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs Dominic LeBlanc told media on June 9 that a verification system will be used for checking proof of vaccination at customs – although he couldn’t promise that such a system would be ready in time by July.
However, the Toronto Star is reporting that Ottawa, at first, will rely on the provincial vaccination certificates that Canadians already have, and ask inbound travellers to upload these documents into ArriveCAN.
Transport Minister Omar Alghabra, on June 17, said the plan will be the first phase of a two-phase approach to easing border restrictions, The Star reports.
Travellers, by the autumn months, will be able to use an automated system that connects to “provincial databases, but respects the privacy of the individual,” Alghabra said.
In an interview with The Star on Thursday night, Alghabra said as soon as the government announces its easing of travel restrictions, officials will be ready with a proof-of-vaccine program.
“When we announce the measures for fully-vaccinated people, it will be in place,” Alghabra said.
Additionally, the second phase of the vaccination certificate program will depend on a buy-in from the provinces and territories, CBC reports, as the federal government needs permission to connect with each jurisdiction's database to track first and second doses.
Minister Alghabra, speaking at a town hall hosted by the Mississauga Board of Trade on May 28, said the vaccine certificate platform will recognize both vaccinated foreign travellers entering Canada while equipping Canadians with health credentials for travel abroad.
The Government of Canada is under public and political pressure to release a plan for reopening the travel and tourism economy and, in particular, the Canada-U.S. land border, which has been closed to non-essential travel since March 2020.
Canada’s quarantine and border rules are set to expire this Monday, June 21.
Earlier this week, the Canadian Travel & Tourism Roundtable – a cross-Canadian coalition of tourism and travel leaders – urged the federal government to release a national plan for reopening land and air borders, among other things, such as a vaccination certification program for international travel.
The Tourism Industry Association of Canada (TIAC) has also launched a letter-writing campaign that calls on government officials to commit to a border reopening date before the summer tourism season is lost.
Speaking to media on Tuesday (June 15), Minister LeBlanc said the government will have an update on measures at both the land borders and at airports in the coming days.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has been clear that reopening the Canada-U.S. land border will be a “phased approach,” hinting that the easing of border measures will apply to fully vaccinated Canadians.
LeBlanc said the government will announce "modest phased-in adjustments at the border'' by this Monday, but noted that changes won’t necessarily take effect on June 21 specifically.
“We may signal in the renewal of these [orders] some modest, phased-in adjustments at the border, but with a date fixed to take effect. It doesn’t have to take effect on the 21st of June,” LeBlanc said.
Trudeau said he spoke with U.S. President Joe Biden at last week’s 2021 G7 Leaders’ Summit, in Carbis Bay, U.K. about lifting restrictions at the land border, but no deal was reached.
Possible updates on the easing of travel and border restrictions could be shared at Noon today (June 18) as an update from federal officials is scheduled.
PAX will report on whatever updates are shared.
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