TORONTO — More pieces of the reopening puzzle fell into place today with incredibly positive news from Prime Minister Trudeau.
And it sounds like 75% with a first dose, and 20% for second doses, could be the magic numbers for reopening the Canada-U.S. border, and potentially easing travel restrictions beyond the border.
Trudeau announced this morning that Canada’s ArriveCAN app, already in use for things like COVID test results and quarantine plans, will have functionality for uploading vaccination certification.
This will be functional in the coming weeks, he said.
This will be the first track for Canada’s 2-track proof of vaccination system, and confirms reports from earlier today, with a timeline in early July, from the CBC.
The second track is a national solution, hopefully in place by this fall in coordination with the provinces, that will bring in a cross-Canada system of vaccination certification.
“We’re working with the ArriveCAN application, which is already well established and being used for Canadians and travellers coming to Canada under the current rules. This way they can share a photo of their vaccination record to prove that they can cross the border and this proves that they were vaccinated,” said Trudeau this morning at his COVID briefing.
“This is not an ideal solution, but it is a solution that we’ll be able to implement quickly,” he said.
A more long term solution is coming for the near future.
Offering more detail about the immediate solution to get travel started again, Trudeau said: “We are working on two tracks in terms of proof of vaccination for Canadians who wish to travel. First of all, in the initial phase we’re going to be working with the ArriveCAN app in ways that people can upload an image of their paper, proof of vaccination or online proof of vaccination, so that the border agents on their return to Canada can verify, indeed, that they are fully vaccinated and that’s something that we will have in place in the coming weeks, so that people can have a few more options, if they’re fully vaccinated.”
A national solution could be in place by fall 2021, he added. “This summer, but for the fall in the medium term, we are working with the provinces to establish a national certification of vaccination status, that will be easily accepted, around the world for people who need to travel internationally, and that will involve working together with the provinces because the provinces of course, have your health data and your vaccination status, and we want to make sure we’re both protecting privacy and protecting jurisdictions, but getting a clear federal notification that other countries can see that we have been you’ve been fully vaccinated, so that’s what we’re working on for the medium term, but there is a solution for the coming weeks [with ArriveCAN].”
Asked why Canada just announced another month’s closure for the Canada-U.S. border, Trudeau said: “We are looking forward to getting back to normal as quickly as possible, but we’re not out of this pandemic yet. We’re still seeing cases across the country and we want to get them down. At the same time, we also know we have to hit our targets of 75% vaccinated with the first dose, at least 20% vaccinated, the second dose, before we can start loosening things up. Because even sfully vaccinated individuals can pass on COVID-19 to someone who is not vaccinated, and that means we have to really make sure that not only people who are fully vaccinated can travel but that the communities to which they will return are not at risk, because even though they are protected from hospitalization, other people around them might not. That’s why we are sticking with our principle of doing everything necessary to keep Canadians first keep Canadians safe.
Trudeau added, in the wake of his discussions with the provincial premiers last night: “It’s important to highlight that we have set an objective at the federal level of 75% for the first doses. We’re currently on our way to reaching that and 20% for those with the second dose. We’re not there yet, but we do expect to be there in the coming weeks and that’s great we encourage everybody to get vaccinated and give their second dose as quickly as possible.”
THE ASTRAZENECA QUESTION
Trudeau was also asked about Canadians who got AstraZeneca as their first dose, and also possibly their second dose too, in light of the fact that the FDA in the U.S. does not have Astra-Zeneca on its list of approved COVID vaccines.
Yesterday news reports surfaced of a Broadway show in New York City that would not allow those with AstraZeneca vaccinations to enter the theatre. That prompted bigger-picture questions about whether AstraZeneca-vaccinated Canadians would be allowed to cross the Canada-U.S. border once the border reopens.
Trudeau said today: “This is a question that was raised during discussions with the Americans … there’s going to be coordination and collaboration work that’s necessary across the world to make sure that people who are vaccinated and protected and who are protecting the community against COVID-19 can still travel.
He added: “These are discussions that are ongoing, we will definitely make sure that people who got two or one AstraZeneca dose will not be on disadvantage when they want to travel. These are discussions that will end in the next coming week so that people can start traveling. We’re not quite there just yet.”
The UK, a major inbound market for the U.S. has very high rates of AstraZeneca vaccination.
CANADA-U.S. BORDER STAYING CLOSED UNTIL JULY 21
Trudeau’s update came shortly after news that the Canada-U.S. border is staying closed until July 21.
Bill Blair, Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, tweeted the news this morning. He confirmed that the border will stay closed until July 21, however he added: “As we have said, the government is planning measures for fully vaccinated Canadians, permanent residents and others who are currently permitted to enter Canada.”
Blair added that further details are coming this Monday, June 21.
Pressure from both sides to reopen the Canada-U.S. border has escalated in recent weeks, with the high season looming and with travel and tourism businesses facing a second COVID summer with drastically reduced revenues and visitor numbers.
The reopening has been a frustrating guessing game, and estimates from industry experts on both sides are ranging from the extremely optimistic (July 1) to much more pessimistic (Thanksgiving).
Canada’s vaccination rollout, slow to start, has gained impressive momentum in the past several weeks and months, with 65% of Canadians now with one dose, and close to 16% and rising rapidly for both doses.