TORONTO — Vaccination shots are now happening for more than 2 million Americans per day, and U.S. President Joe Biden suggested in a televised address last week that the country’s July 4 celebrations could also mark Independence Day from COVID-19 in the U.S.
Canada’s vaccination program is also underway, albeit at a slower pace.
The rollout on both sides has not surprisingly led to more questions for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau about when the Canada-U.S. border will reopen.
It was one year ago next week that the Canada-U.S. border closed.
Today at a press conference in Quebec, after speaking about Canada’s vaccine rollout, Trudeau fielded a question about reopening the border.
Trudeau said that while there are “ongoing discussions” about the border, “Canada’s first priority will always be ensuring the safety and security of our citizens.”
“We’re all eager to travel again,” he said, but noted that health and safety must come first. The border reopening will happen “eventually, but not for today.”
Last week, when asked about the border on CTV’s Your Morning program, Trudeau said: “We will see what vaccinations look like, we will see what case counts look like. We will listen to experts on when we can start easing restrictions, but the safety of Canadians needs to come first.”
Many in the travel industry are asking for more of a plan, or at least benchmarks. And not just for the Canada – U.S. border, but for Canada’s borders to all travel.
Listing off the agenda for ACITA’s upcoming Zoom meeting with Transport Minister Omar Alghabra, ACITA co-founder Brenda Slater told Travelweek this morning: “We also need a clear plan to reopen our borders when it’s safe to do so, so we are able to rebuild confidence in advisors and consumers and restart our industry.”
ACITA has secured an upcoming meeting with Alghabra; read the story here.
And ACTA, which has had talks with the Ministry of Transport and is also now in talks with the Ministry of Finance as the airline bailout heads towards the finish line, is looking more at a metrics-based restart too.
Any restart for travel and tourism won’t come with a magic date but rather a set of conditions, said ACTA President Wendy Paradis at ACTA’s webinar earlier this month. As she noted, the conditions could include the number of COVID cases, the number of hospitalizations, the number of Canadians vaccinated and the development of vaccination verification tools.
Meanwhile an analysis piece at CBC.ca says no metrics are in place yet, and quotes one unnamed Canadian official who says, “I can see the light at the end of the tunnel … in the near term, however, people should expect the border measures [to continue].”
The CBC reports that two dozen members of U.S. Congress, from states along the Canada – U.S. border, have asked President Biden, to outline a border reopening plan.
THE LATEST TICO STATS
The CBC is also reporting on the plight of travel agents amid the pandemic, with coverage in recent days of travel agency closures.
The report notes that TICO’s latest numbers show a drop in registrants, including travel retailers and wholesalers, from 2,333 in 2019 to 2,147 in 2020.
TICO President Richard Smart does note that not all the closures are due to the pandemic.