Fully vaccinated Canadians and permanent residents will be able to enter Canada without undergoing quarantine starting the night of July 5, the federal government announced today.
The news comes as many Canadian provinces have hit key vaccination targets, with more than 75 per cent of eligible Canadians having received at least one dose and over 20 per cent having received two.
Canadians and permanent residents who are fully vaccinated won’t be able to simply walk through customs, however.
According to officials at a government briefing for journalists, those entering will need to show documents proving they received doses of vaccines approved in Canada at least 14 days prior to entering the country.
Officials said travellers must electronically submit COVID-19-related information to the government’s ArriveCAN app before arriving, meet the pre- and on-arrival test requirements, be asymptomatic and have a suitable quarantine plan.
“Final determination regarding exemptions is made by a government representative at the border based on the information presented at the time of entry into Canada, which is why a quarantine plan is still required,” said a government media statement.
If approved, those accepted travellers will not have to quarantine. Those arriving by air will also not be forced to stay at a government-authorized hotel and non-vaccinated children or dependent adults travelling with them will also be exempt from the hotel stay.
Children who aren’t vaccinated will be able to go home with their parents, but must quarantine for two weeks, said an official speaking on background.
The new rules — which kick in July 5 at 11:59 p.m. ET — cover Canadian citizens, permanent residents, those registered under the Indian Act and some foreign nationals already allowed to enter Canada, including international students.
A spokesperson for the Canada Border Services Agency said those without a smartphone or without mobile data should submit their information online within 72 hours before their arrival in Canada.
“Travellers should print or take a screenshot of their ArriveCAN receipt and bring it with them when they travel,” said Rebecca Purdy.
“Travellers can also ask another person for assistance, such as a friend or relative, to submit their information if they are unable to use ArriveCAN.”
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There are no changes to border restrictions for travellers who are not fully vaccinated. Those who land by air will still have to stay in hotel quarantine for up to three days pending a negative arrival test, quarantine at home for the remainder of the 14-day period and take a test on day eight of their self-isolation period.
More vaccinations will mean ‘significant easing’ of border restrictions
Public Safety Minister Bill Blair hinted at future steps in Canada’s border reopening during a Monday interview on CBC’s Power & Politics.
Blair said the government is setting its sights now on getting 75 per cent of the population fully vaccinated, at which point Canada could further loosen safety measures at its borders.
“The payoff for Canadians, and for all of us, is when we reach that threshold, we’ll be able to accommodate significant easing of the border [restrictions],” Blair told the CBC’s David Cochrane.
Canada also could begin welcoming fully vaccinated tourists when the country reaches the 75 per cent vaccination mark.
“I think that will mean an easing of restrictions on fully vaccinated travelers and the lifting of the current prohibition on non-essential travel,” Blair said, noting that such a change will be made in consultation with public health officials.
Canadians still advised to avoid non-essential travel
While Blair outlined a roadmap that will allow fully vaccinated tourists and non-residents to return to Canada, the easing planned for July 5 does not apply to foreign nationals. Ottawa announced Friday it would be continuing existing restrictions at the Canada-U.S. border for at least another month, until July 21.
“At this time, the Government of Canada continues to strongly advise Canadians to avoid non-essential travel,” said Blair.
“Although the future is looking brighter than it has for a long time, with COVID-19 cases on a downward trend and vaccination efforts going well across the country, we can’t let our guard down.”
Maryscott Greenwood, CEO of the Canada America Business Council, said she’s frustrated by the federal government’s rationale for not allowing fully-vaccinated U.S. citizens into the country.
“What’s the difference between fully vaccinated Canadians and fully vaccinated Americans? Unless you work for the NHL, in which case I guess there’s a special exemption,” she said.
“It’s frustrating, not only to Americans but to Canadian businesses that we work with on a daily basis. We need to get back into a place where we’re able to do business in a safe way and Canada is, for reasons that are really puzzling to us, quite reluctant.”
Health Minister Patty Hajdu said she’s still consulting with provinces about the next phase of easing travel restrictions.
“As we’ve told Canadians all along, easing measures at the border will happen as we see our communities increasingly become safe,” she said.
“We’ll come back to Canadians in the near future on what kinds of metrics will allow us to have the confidence to reduce measures even further.”
Ban on flights from India extended
Goldy Hyder, president and CEO of the Business Council of Canada, said the government should have a clear plan for opening international travel.
“A transparent plan with clear benchmarks to reopen travel would be a powerful tool for encouraging Canadians to get fully vaccinated. The Council is disappointed that the government hasn’t seen fit to tell Canadians what they can look forward to as the vaccination campaign rolls on,” he said in a statement.
“I’m disappointed, too, that the light at the end of the tunnel is still a long ways off for Canada’s battered travel, tourism and hospitality sectors.”
During the news conference Monday, Transport Minister Omar Alghabra also announced the government is ending the ban on incoming flights from Pakistan but is extending the flight ban for flights from India for at least another month given the high case count.
Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino also announced that individuals approved for permanent residence may travel to Canada as of June 21. Previously, foreign nationals who held a valid confirmation of permanent residence issued on or before March 18, 2020, were exempt from Canada’s travel restrictions.
WATCH | Update on how those with permanent residency can travel to Canada