By Stephanie LevitzOttawa Bureau
Tue., July 13, 2021timer3 min. read
updateArticle was updated 10 hrs ago
OTTAWA—Further changes are expected to travel restrictions to Canada as the latest iteration of the Canada-U. S. border closure deal is set to expire next week.
But two sources told the Star that in the short term, they are expected to be just minor tweaks, and it remains unclear when Canada will throw open its doors to fully vaccinated tourists or business travellers.
It’s been just over a week since Canada relaxed quarantine rules for fully vaccinated Canadians, permanent residents and others who are currently eligible to enter Canada under the terms of travel restrictions that have been in place since the COVID-19 pandemic began in the spring of 2020.
They no longer have to quarantine for 14 days upon arrival, but merely require a test before they leave for Canada and one when they get here, provided their vaccines have been approved for use in Canada.
But the new regime has come with some quirks.
For example, children who are too young to be vaccinated still have to quarantine for 14 days, even if their parents don’t. Those who are partially vaccinated are also still required to quarantine for 14 days, including a mandatory three-day hotel stay, if they arrive by air.
The federal government’s expert panel on COVID-19 testing had recommended ending that hotel program outright, and adjusting quarantine requirements down on the basis of someone’s vaccination status.
Data on how many people decided to travel abroad given the new rules isn’t yet available, nor how many still tested positive upon arrival, as even the fully vaccinated must still take tests.
But, Canada Border Services Agency said prior to July 5 — the day the new measures kicked in — there were on average 20,000 downloads a day of the ArriveCan app people must use to enter their COVID-19 related information. After July 5, that average rose to 73,000.
How to track vaccination status has been one of the sticking points around border measures, both for Canadians seeking to travel and who didn’t receive vaccines approved in their destination countries, and for those abroad who wish to come to Canada whose vaccines aren’t recognized here.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Tuesday that work toward an internationally accepted standard on vaccination continues.
“We’re looking at what the (World Health Organization) is certifying in terms of vaccines, we’re looking at what other countries are doing around the range of vaccines,” he said in Nova Scotia.
“Our goal is to make sure that as many people as possible are protected as best as possible. “
While Canada is at work with other countries towards a harmonized international approach to vaccine certification, Trudeau suggested a pan-Canadian one is off the table.
“That’s something that the provinces themselves will establish as what is right for them.”
Canada and the U.S. have been renewing the deal that keeps the land border closed to non-essential travel on a monthly basis, with the current one set to expire on July 21.
While case counts in Canada continue to decline, the U.S. has seen an increase in recent weeks especially in regions where vaccine rates are low.
What that could mean for Canada-U. S. travel will be on the agenda during Trudeau’s weekly meeting with the premiers, as the Liberals have said they want the provinces on side before easing any other restrictions.
He had signalled last week that the next step would be how to handle international travellers and a decision would be made within weeks.
With files from The Canadian Press
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