After 15 months of strict travel restrictions along its southern border, the Canadian government could ease its border restrictions in just two weeks, city officials say.
A virtual meeting between the mayors of Canadian border towns and Public Safety Minister Bill Blair on May 28 included discussions on easing cross-border COVID-19 policies once current restrictions expire on June 21 in Niagara Falls, Ontario Mayor Jim Diodati told USA TODAY.
“Hope is not a good strategy – we need a plan,” Diodati said.
The Canadian federal government has yet to confirm firm plans to ease border restrictions with the United States, and a spokesperson for Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness declined to offer an interview. Blair’s meeting with the mayors of border towns was first reported by Politico.
When do Canada’s borders reopen?
Pleasure travel to the Canada-U.S. Border has been banned since March 2020. Those crossing must prove they are crossing for essential reasons, take a COVID-19 test in advance and self-quarantine for a while. at least 14 days upon arrival, regardless of their vaccination status. .
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told the CBC last month that he would rather wait until 75% of the country is vaccinated before fully reopening the border, but his administration has come under pressure to develop a plan to reopen the borderlands. borders faster than that.
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Despite discussions of an imminent change, Trudeau reiterated at a press conference on Tuesday that border restrictions will be focused on the number of fully vaccinated Canadian citizens.
One dose “is always incomplete protection. We need people to receive two doses of their vaccines,” the prime minister said.
As of Friday, 56.8% of the Canadian population had received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine and 5.7% had been fully vaccinated, according to the Canadian government website. The Canadian government has approved Moderna, Pfizer-BioNTech, AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines.
Diodati said he was told at the May 28 meeting that the government was considering easing border restrictions after 75% of Canadians had at least one injection and 20% were fully immunized – a step which the government expects to achieve by June 21.
Restrictions could ease further on July 21 as long as 75% of Canadians are fully immunized, Diodati added.
The plans were not yet finalized at last month’s meeting, but Diodati said the group had also discussed the possibility of using a vaccination passport.
“If that’s what it takes to open things up, I’m okay with that,” he said. “That sort of thing serves as an added incentive to encourage people to get their two shots.”
Windsor, Ont. Mayor Drew Dilkens, also present at the May 28 meeting, added that it “was not clear” exactly when or how the restrictions would be relaxed.
“(Blair) described it as our government wanting to find symmetry with the United States when reopening, but that may not be possible,” Dilkens said. “And so if the United States does just a full reopening, I would expect Canada to maintain some level of restriction on re-entry with the easiest route of entry for those who are fully vaccinated. “
Pressure to reopen the border
The Canada-U.S. Border has been closed to non-essential travel, but there have been exceptions.
Earlier this week, the NHL received an exemption from Canadian health authorities to allow cross-border travel for teams starting in the Stanley Cup Playoff semifinals.
MLB is also trying to get permission from the Toronto Blue Jays to return to Canada; the team is currently playing in Buffalo, New York. Blue Jays president Mark Shapiro said there was a possibility the team could return to Toronto at some point this season, but warned the decision would depend on easing border regulations.
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If Canada opens its borders to more travelers this month, it will come just in time for the summer travel season. Diodati said Niagara Falls typically receives 14 million annual tourists, a quarter or who are Americans, and accounts for about half of the local tourism industry’s revenue.
“We need the borders to be open,” Diodati said. “We want to ramp up so that by the long weekend of July 1-4, we want a lot of things to be up and running.… We’ve lost a good chunk of the tourist season last year. can’t afford to lose this. one. It’s been devastating. “
Update on upcoming travel restrictions for Canadian citizens
The country can also take steps to ease restrictions for residents returning to the country.
Canada currently requires all travelers traveling by air to stay in a government-authorized hotel while they wait for COVID-19 test results. The federal government has said fully vaccinated Canadians and permanent residents will soon be able to skip hotel stays as part of their quarantine period, according to a CBC report.
Specific dates were not provided, but Health Minister Patty Hajdu said the government hopes to start easing restrictions from early July, according to the CBC.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: US-Canada border could open to more travelers this month