A closer look at the new eased travel restrictions coming Aug. 9 and Sept. 7, and what they mean for outbound travel

A closer look at the new eased travel restrictions coming Aug. 9 and Sept. 7, and what they mean for outbound travel

TORONTO — After many, many months of no word on eased travel restrictions, the travel industry got an earful yesterday from the federal government.

While the focus so far is mostly on inbound travel, that’s in part because the Canadian government can’t dictate the border decisions of other countries.

What it can do to truly restart outbound travel is lift the travel advisory against all non-essential travel.

With fully vaccinated American travellers allowed to enter Canada starting Aug. 9, and fully vaccinated travellers from all other countries allowed to enter Canada starting Sept. 7 – effective both dates, for all types of travel including discretionary travel – is it reasonable to assume that Canada’s current travel ban, still in place after more than 16 months, might be lifted in the weeks ahead?

The industry is keeping a close eye on that advisory, because it will be the ultimate game-changer as Canada emerges from the pandemic.

HERE’S WHAT’S HAPPENING AUG. 9 AND SEPT. 7

As reported yesterday on Travelweek.ca, the federal government announced the following good news …

  • As of Aug. 9, 2021 fully vaccinated American travellers will be allowed to enter Canada, quarantine-free, but will still need to show a back-up quarantine plan if needed. Travel may be discretionary. Travellers will still need to show proof of a 72-hour negative COVID test pre-departure, however testing upon arrival in Canada will be random.
  • The 3-day hotel quarantine will be eliminated for all travellers regardless of vaccination status effective Aug. 9. Unvaccinated travellers arriving in Canada will still need to quarantine for 14 days.
  • Also on Aug. 9, international arrivals will be welcomed at 5 more Canadian airports, in Halifax, Quebec City, Winnipeg, Ottawa and Edmonton. Airports already in operation for international flights are in Toronto, Montreal, Calgary and Vancouver.
  • As of Sept. 7, 2021 fully vaccinated travellers from any country will be allowed to enter Canada, quarantine-free, but will still need to show a back-up quarantine plan if needed. Travel may be discretionary. Travellers will still need to show proof of a 72-hour negative COVID test pre-departure, however testing upon arrival in Canada will be random.

LOTS OF QUESTIONS

Plenty of questions came up at yesterday’s briefing, including questions about U.S. reciprocity, unvaccinated kids and travel, mixed vaccinations and more.

As reported yesterday, so far the U.S. hasn’t reciprocated yet with open border policies for fully vaccinated Canadians. That said, Canada and the U.S. have largely been in lockstep so far on the border closure.

Also indicated yesterday, unvaccinated kids under 12 returning to or arriving in Canada will be exempt from the 14-day quarantine, however the federal government is still advising that those children ‘avoid congregate settings’ like schools and daycares. 

As one reporter noted during the media briefing Q&A, the new guidance on kids and travel is “rather vague”. 

Here’s what Health Minister Patty Hajdu, Public Safety Minister Bill Blair, Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs Dominic LeBlanc and Transport Minister Omar Alghabra had to say about all the announcements yesterday … 

UNVACCINATED KIDS UNDER 12 EXEMPT FROM QUARANTINE, BUT … 

Health Minister Patty Hajdu:

“Today I can confirm to families traveling with children under 12, that children will be exempt from quarantine, but they will still have to follow strict public health measures. This means they can accompany their parent or guardian out of the house to their destination, so long as they avoid group settings like summer camps, school, or childcare for 14 days.”

“We want to protect the upcoming school year. Children still are not able to be vaccinated. We don’t have any pharmaceutical companies yet who have applied for a vaccine for children. Of course we’ll eagerly review those applications as they come in, but children remain vulnerable, and so do their communities and so this measure allows for families to have some degree of functioning.”

Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs Dominic LeBlanc:

“The advice that we received from Dr. Tam and others is that there will be no mandatory quarantine for children, the 14 day quarantine, that is if they are accompanied by parents or guardian who is fully vaccinated or who are fully vaccinated. However, provincial health measures still must apply. So families must familiarize themselves with local directives that apply and local health measures in place. And we will also advise these children to avoid places such as schools and daycares and other group settings where there’s a great deal of transmission capacity.”

WILL MIXED-DOSE CANADIANS BE PENALIZED AT THE U.S BORDER?

Minister Leblanc:

“Over the course of our conversations with our American counterparts, we do discuss border measures. But we are also discussing, continuously discussing all of those issues when it comes to vaccines [and] when it comes to what constitutes a fully vaccinated person.”

“We are constantly discussing with authorities not only in the U.S., but also in many other countries in order to ideally arrive at a mutual recognition of vaccination regimes. Of course, that has to be evidence based, and based on the scientific analyses of our own health authorities, including Health Canada. But I know that Health Canada authorities often speak to their American counterparts in order to arrive at an appropriate conclusion that will not prevent Canadians … from potentially traveling to the United States, when those Canadians follow their own health authorities, guidelines, advice and directives.”

Health Minister Patty Hajdu:

“I can’t speak to the motivations of other countries but I can speak to ours and we have been, as I said very rigorously, following the advice of our public health authorities who are most comfortable, as I said earlier, with accepting vaccines that we have studied here in Canada to receive Health Canada approval. Each vaccine has to go through a rigorous analysis and we have access to all the data. So as we continue to understand the effectiveness of other vaccines that have been developed in other countries and other settings, we’ll continue to work with those partners as well as the WHO. Undoubtedly as vaccine campaigns get underway, and we have better real world data around the effective effectiveness of those vaccines, we will be able to adjust our measures. But for now, given that we know these vaccines, we know their effectiveness, that is the choice that we’ve made and it is on the advice of our public health authorities.”

U.S. RECIPROCITY ON THE BORDER REOPENING – YES, NO, MAYBE?

Public Safety Minister Bill Blair:

“It’s important to note that the U.S. has not announced a reciprocal reopening of its border at this time. … We will continue to have regular conversations with our U.S. partners to ensure the safety, security, and economic well being of our respective countries.”

“I spoke last Friday to the Alejandro Mayorkas, Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, and I revealed to him the measures that Canada would be implementing at our border. He indicated to me at this time they have not yet made a decision. They anticipate their current measures will likely be rolled over on July 21. They are obviously considering additional measures and data. But at the present time, they have not indicated a plan to to make any any changes in the … restrictions that are in place.”

“There’s nothing about this that’s embarrassing. We’re introducing measures that are appropriate and appropriately cautious to protect Canadians … to begin a very careful phased reopening of our border. We work very closely with our American counterparts [but] we make our decisions based on the advice of our scientific experts.”

Minister LeBlanc:

“We hope that at the right moment, the American government will be able to lift some of the border measures in place. However, we respect the fact that the decision is theirs to make.  … In the meantime, we will continue to work with the Americans in the context of our privileged religious relationship and we do hope to hear more from them soon.”

PROOF OF VACCINATION

Transport Minister Omar Alghabra:

“Starting on August 9 air carriers will begin verifying that travellers coming to Canada have submitted their COVID-19 information digitally through the ArriveCAN app or website before boarding a flight. This includes information and documentation to demonstrate that they are fully vaccinated. This will apply first to you as citizens and you as permanent residents who have travelled to Canada from the U.S. for discretionary travel on or after August 9. On September 7 foreign nationals from other countries will be permitted to come to Canada for discretionary travel, and they will also need to provide proof that they have been fully vaccinated, according to Canadian standards.”

THE HOTEL QUARANTINE RULE

Minister LeBlanc: 

“We will never apologize for having taken such important measures in order to protect Canadians.  … We also made important decisions in order to send Canadians, a message especially last winter, that now was not the time to take trips abroad. We continually repeated that advice. And we took the measures, the global measures that we thought were appropriate.”

THE AIRLINE INDUSTRY

Minister Alghabra: 

“I also want to thank the airlines, airports, and all workers in the aviation sector. This sector has endured a lot during the pandemic. Our government was there to support airlines and airports, but nothing beats working together to restart travel. I ask travellers to be patient during this transitional time as volumes ramp up. There might be longer wait times than usual as airports [as we] adjust to the new reality. The global pandemic is not over yet. We need to remain vigilant and cautious. We don’t want to squander the hard won gains made by Canadians. Today’s announcement is great news for the aviation sector and its workers. Transport Canada is committed to facilitating a safe restart of travel by working with industry and all Canadians. “

CANADA’S VACCINATION RATES

Minister Hajdu:

“Thanks to the hard work of Canadians who have followed public health measures have stepped up to get vaccinated when it was their turn, we’re in a much stronger position to be able to further ease border measures for fully vaccinated travellers.”

Minister Alghabra:

“I want to emphasize that these changes are only possible due to the extraordinary commitment Canadians have shown, following public health advice, and getting vaccinated in incredible numbers. So let’s keep the momentum growing. If you haven’t done it yet, please get your shot.”