Border restrictions for fully vaccinated Canadians loosen, but plan for wider reopening remains unclear
While quarantine restrictions started to loosen Monday for Canadians travelling outside the country, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had little new to say at a campaign-style stop in Ontario about the status of the U.S.-Canada border.
Beginning Monday, Canadians and permanent residents who have completed their doses of a COVID-19 vaccine approved for use in Canada are now able to forego the 14-day quarantine upon returning to the country, which has been a requirement since March 2020. Fully vaccinated Canadians and permanent residents who arrive by air will also be allowed to skip out on the federal government’s required stay in a government-approved hotel, and if they are travelling with kids, those kids are required to quarantine at home for two weeks upon their return.
Those entering the country 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. Travellers are required to submit a suitable quarantine plan even if they’re “seeking the fully vaccinated exemption,” says the government’s website.
The mutual travel restrictions between Canada and the United States — which prohibit all discretionary travel between the two countries while continuing to allow the movement of trade, essential workers and international students — are due to expire July 21.
Trudeau’s latest comments, just 16 days out from the date, leave open the possibility there will be another extension after that date.
“We’re very hopeful that we’re going to see new steps on reopening announced in the coming weeks,” Trudeau said during an announcement in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont. “We’re going to make sure that we’re not seeing a resurgence of COVID-19 cases, because nobody wants to go back to further restrictions, after having done so much and sacrificed so much to get to this point.”
Denis Vinette, Canada Border Services Agency vice-president, travellers branch, said the agency is anxious to ensure people understand what is changing, as well as what is not, in order to prevent excessive delays or tie-ups at border control points.
“I think we can expect, certainly in the early days, individuals believing that, you know, July 5 is here, Canada is now open for tourism, recreation and things of that nature. That is not the case,” said Vinette. “We’ve prepared our front-line staff, who’ve been having to deal with this since the onset, for those types of scenarios.”
From The National
Teachers’ union calls on Ontario to consult on COVID-19 safety measures before schools reopen
The summer break may have just begun, but the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation (OSSTF) says it wants to see a concrete plan from the province for reopening schools in September as soon as possible.
Karen Littlewood, president of OSSTF, said she applauds the Ontario government’s “reopening metrics,” saying they’re “really helpful” and provide “a lot of safety and reassurance.” But more is needed because the September semester is approaching, she says. The union represents 20,000 teachers.
Among other things, the union is calling for improved ventilation and air filtration in school buildings, a possible reduction of class sizes and continued masking if necessary to ensure the federation’s 60,000 members, students returning to school and their parents feel reassured that the schools are safe. “We need to know this information well before the last week of August,” Littlewood said.
“To have consultations with the government about this would be incredible. We really haven’t been consulted along the way and it would be helpful if we could have a say.”
Ontario’s education ministry said it’s spending $1.6 billion to get students back to full-time, in-person learning. “With all students 12+ and education workers prioritized for double vaccination prior to September, this will enable more flexibility and allow for a more normal in-class learning experience,” said Caitlin Clark, spokesperson for Education Minister Stephen Lecce, in an email on Saturday.
The province has also just announced that those 12-to-17 can receive their second shot much sooner than the 12-week interval originally planned, due to an expected stable supply of vaccines.
Littlewood is hopeful after seeing the progression in Ontario adolescents and teens getting their shots.
She said while “face to face” is the best way to deliver education, schools, public health units and the province will have to make sure “every precaution is in place.”
Business optimism and hiring plans highlight Bank of Canada survey
New data from the Bank of Canada show hiring intentions among businesses have hit an all-time high and workers’ confidence in landing a job has nearly rebounded to pre-pandemic levels.
The survey shows most businesses across the country plan to hire over the next 12 months as they foresee faster sales growth as restrictions loosen.
The central bank suggests the improved business and consumer sentiments reflect the pace of vaccinations and economic reopening, but adds that the results also suggest an uneven path out of the pandemic for the country’s labour market.
The path for the economy is expected to get much rosier in the coming weeks and months, driven by strong expectations for consumer spending. Households have on average amassed a mountain of savings during the pandemic, as they had limited options to spend and government subsidies put a financial floor under the hardest-hit workers.
The number of businesses reporting improved indicators of future sales hit a record high in the quarterly survey, which the central bank suggested was another “concrete signal of a broad-based strengthening in demand relative to a year ago.”
Standing in the way of meeting those future demands are labour-related constraints, such as finding skilled or specialized workers, that are likely to persist. The central bank also says some firms worry about labour shortages limiting their ability to meet current demand.
In addition, the survey notes that some businesses in high-contact service sectors like restaurants don’t expect a return to their pre-pandemic staffing levels for at least the next 12 months.
Quebec COVID restrictions are loosening, but jails are still putting inmates in solitary to quarantine
Several provinces have required inmates to isolate when they arrive in provincial jails to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, but Quebec’s two-week period is being questioned by some for its effectiveness and for being unjust, as it also applies to those accused but not convicted of a crime.
Marie-Claude Lacroix, a criminal defence lawyer who specializes in the rights of incarcerated people, told CBC News keeping inmates in their cell for such long stretches for 14 days with nothing to do is “extreme” and “inhumane.”
At older jails such as Montreal’s Bordeaux, which opened in 1912, there is no air conditioning and the isolation cells have become incredibly hot this summer.
“One of my clients at Bordeaux was given one outing in 14 days to a yard the size of a chicken coop and he had to go out alone,” said Lacroix.
CBC News spoke to an inmate on condition of anonymity who went through a 14-day quarantine at a provincial jail. They were alone in a cell for two weeks, and said that guards let them out only once every 23 hours.
“The quarantine was hell,” they said, describing extremely hot conditions during the recent heat wave, as well as meagre food provisions.
Dr. Christopher Labos, a Montreal cardiologist with a degree in epidemiology, is skeptical of the effectiveness of the quarantine measures.
“The problem with COVID-19 is that it’s very much spread by respiratory droplets,” he said. “So if everyone is just breathing the same air, if there’s not good air circulation in that prison, it doesn’t really matter if you’re in your cell or not. Cells are not airtight cubicles.” He said vaccines are the “clear path forward” to control COVID-19 now.
Just in 2021, Quebec has seen outbreaks at both Bordeaux and at the Saint-Jérôme detention centre.
Stay informed with the latest COVID-19 data.
Toronto’s summer pro sports teams press governments to put an end to U.S. ‘home’ games
The Toronto Blue Jays have confirmed they’re seeking approval for a return to the city for home games as early as July 30.
The Blue Jays have not played in Toronto since closing the 2019 season with an 8-3 win over Tampa Bay on Sept. 29, spending their time since August 2020 hosting games from Buffalo, N.Y.
As first reported by Rogers-owned Sportsnet, the team says they recently submitted a proposal to the federal government asking for approval to return to the Rogers Centre this summer.
“The application isn’t explicitly tied to that date,” the team said in an email to CBC News on Monday.
The proposal to the federal government comes after Ontario announced an accelerated return-to-play plan in June for professional and elite amateur leagues as the province loosens COVID-19 restrictions. The province’s return-to-play plan applies to 18 leagues across six sports including the Canadian Football League, the Ontario Hockey League, Major League Baseball, Major League Soccer and the National Basketball Association.
Meanwhile, Toronto FC president Bill Manning said Sunday he is optimistic the MLS team will soon be able to play games back at its BMO Field home. Toronto has played its home games in East Hartford, Conn., and then Orlando, Fla., during the pandemic.
“The regulations allow us to come home and train, those that are fully vaccinated,” said Manning. “So we will certainly take advantage of that.”
At the federal level, border restrictions were eased Monday for fully vaccinated Canadians, though not for those from outside the country.
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