TORONTO — The federal government could soon announce eased border restrictions for double-dose vaccinated travellers.
Trudeau seemed to hint as much in his COVID briefing today.
Asked about border restrictions, Trudeau said today: “I understand how eager people are to put this pandemic behind us and travel once again.”
“We are looking at how we can ease the [travel and border restriction] rules based on science,” he added. “It’s not enough to just have one dose. We need the two full doses.” Trudeau acknowledged that the first vaccine dose “does confer a lot of protection”, but that two doses is a must for full protection.
“The easing of restrictions will be focused on Canadians who have been fully vaccinated,” he said, adding “we will have more announcements to make” about eased restriction for two-dose travellers “in the weeks to come.”
Asked about timing, for Canadians making summer travel plans, Trudeau would not commit to any timeline.
But could the announcement come June 21, the next renewal date for the Canada-U.S. border closure? Asked about June 21 specifically, Trudeau later said: “June 21 is the day [the list of restrictions] does get rolled over, or not. When there are announcements to be made you can be sure we’ll be making them.”
Trudeau repeatedly stressed the need for Canadians to get both their doses of vaccine, suggesting that travel is among the incentives for the double dose. “As more people become protected, yes we will be able to ease up on the rules.”
INBOUND AND OUTBOUND
In reports including the CBC’s the focus is primarily on inbound travellers, no doubt to with an eye to resuscitating Canada’s decimated inbound tourism industry.
According to the CBC, picking up from the Canadian Press, Trudeau said: “We are looking at how we’re going to start welcoming up tourists in a phased way as the numbers come down in Canada, as the numbers start to come down in the United States and elsewhere around the world.”
Meanwhile for outbound travel Canada’s long list of travel restrictions, including the closure of the Canada-U.S. border, is currently in place until June 21. As reported on Travelweek.ca, on May 21 Transport Minister Omar Alghabra said: “Stay tuned … we’re going to have new announcements, new measures” when asked by a reporter about Canada’s plans to reopen to international travel.
URGENT CALLS FOR A PLAN COULD NOT BE MORE CLEAR
Today’s update comes as Trudeau prepares to attend the G7 Summit in the UK, scheduled for June 11 – 13. U.S. President Biden will be there, along with the other G7 leaders. UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has already indicated that vaccine passports will be on the G7 Summit agenda.
According to the latest reports, a double dose of the COVID vaccine could mean a shorter quarantine period for travellers entering Canada, although there would still be testing requirements. Canada’s quarantine for all inbound international travellers, and Canadians returning from international trips, is 14 days. There’s no word yet on the fate of the three-day hotel quarantine requirement. On June 4 the fee for hotel quarantine dodgers increased to $5,000.
With Canada’s vaccination rollout still in high gear, 62% of eligible Canadians have received at least one dose, and 8% of the population has received two doses.
A government advisory panel’s report released in late May called for the elimination of the mandatory hotel quarantine, in place since mid-February, based on findings that the requirement is an expensive, inconsistent policy that contains loopholes.
The COVID-19 Testing and Screening Expert Advisory Panel also called for implementing changes to testing and screening, and eliminating all quarantine for fully vaccinated travellers.
Everyone from the National Airlines Council of Canada (NACC), to the Canadian Travel & Tourism Roundtable, to Unifor, weighed in, calling on the federal government to follow the recommendations from its own panel.
Even the Globe and Mail chimed in. As reported in yesterday’s Travelweek Daily, a June 4 editorial in the Globe noted that Canada’s border measures must be about managing risk: “For now, Canada has to stay vigilant at the border. That means easing restrictions on fully vaccinated travellers, while tightening the rules for those who are not.”
In mid-May Trudeau indicated that a 75% vaccination rate could be a starting point for a discussion about reopening the border, however he has since walked that back. Earlier this month Foreign Affairs Minister (and former Transport Minister) Marc Garneau noted Canadians’ “impatience” with the border closure.
There have also been escalating calls from politicians, businesses and, of course, the airline and travel industries, calling on the Canadian government for transparency on its plans to reopen the border, before June 21.