Canadian government confirms it is extending restrictions by one month until July 21. It will announce a phased reopening plan on Monday.
Bill Blair, Canada’s minister of public safety confirmed the news Friday morning via Twitter.
Blair also tweeted that more information will become available this Monday: “As we have said, the government is planning measures for fully vaccinated Canadians, Permanent Residents, and others who are currently permitted to enter Canada and will provide further details on Monday, June 21.”
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All eyes are on the Canadian border as the current travel restrictions are set to expire this Monday, June 21. The question is, will they be extended again?
There has been much discussion, and hints leaked to the media, but officials have been tight-lipped so far.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has suggested the border would be re-opened in phases. Trudeau has maintained that Canada would not start easing restrictions until 75 per cent of Canadians have been vaccinated. About 60 per cent of Canada’s total population has received at least one dose, and 8 per cent are fully vaccinated.
Health Minister Patty Hajdu has also said the government could start scaling back mandatory quarantine as early as the first week of July. New arrivals to Canada could possibly get out of quarantine as soon as their COVID-19 test comes back negative. As it is now, travellers who come by plane have to stay in a hotel at their own expense. Once they receive a negative test result, they have to carry out the rest of the mandatory 14-day quarantine requirement at their final destination.
Hajdu suggested that the new measure would apply to Canadian citizens and permanent residents who have been fully vaccinated by one of the four vaccines approved in Canada: Pfizer, Moderna, Astra Zeneca, and Johnson & Johnson.
Vaccination documents will likely be uploaded through the ArriveCAN app.
There has been no official protocols released for children travellers who are not old enough to be vaccinated. At a press conference, Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam suggested that there may be different rules for people travelling with minors.
“The first rule of thumb, if you like, is that of course kids cannot be separated from their parents… We will make sure that those questions and answers are provided,” Tam said at a press conference on June 11.
On June 17, Trudeau met with provincial leaders to discuss the border reopening. Details of the next phase of border restrictions will have to be released by Monday, whether or not they will be extended.
Canada-U.S. border reopening
The pressure to reopen the Canada-U.S. border has been strong on both sides, but Trudeau has been siding with science over public outcry. Politicians and business leaders in Canada and the U.S. have been pressuring the nations’ leaders to reopen the border, and restart the economy for sectors that have been hard-hit since the March 2020 closure.
June 22 will not likely be the beginning of the end Canada-U.S. border restrictions, as officials have hinted earlier this month. International Affairs Minister Dominic Leblac told reporters that reopening may begin in July. He also said there may be dates released with the new order that will signal what the phases of reopening will look like.
What we don’t know
A phased border reopening could take many forms. It could be phased in terms of geography, as in tighter restrictions on entering areas of Canada with high case counts. Also, as we have seen with the ongoing flight ban on India and Pakistan, the government could choose to take measures to slow travel between certain countries. The government is currently watching the progression of the delta variant, which may become a factor in decisions relating to travel.
There may also be differences in how the government handles reopening travel between Canada and the U.S., and Canada and the rest of the world. The restrictions are already divided in this way, with one order pertaining to U.S. travellers, and the other to travellers from all other foreign countries. There are few differences, due to the important trade and political relationship between Canada and the U.S. Some of these differences, however, affect travellers.
For instance, approved permanent residents who got their confirmation documents after March 18, 2020, are not allowed to travel to Canada to complete the landing process, unless they are U.S. residents. In order to come to Canada and activate their documents from any other country, they need to fall under another exemption. This has caused thousands of people to be stuck in immigration limbo throughout the pandemic, waiting with only a promise that they will be able to come to Canada eventually. This brings us to the other thing we don’t know — how will the phased-in approach affect people by immigration status?
Hajdu has hinted that the relaxed quarantine requirements would affect exempt travellers, such as Canadian citizens and permanent residents, and those who have vaccines that are approved in Canada. This could suggest the government is considering a phased-in approach based on the traveller’s vaccination history, and reason for entering the country.
Canada could continue to enforce restrictions on people based on whether or not they are considered “essential travellers.” The government has changed the parameters for essential travellers in the past. Notably, in fall 2020 when more international students and family members became exempt from restrictions.
By Monday, the feds will need to answer to what the phased-in approach will look like, how will testing and proof of vaccinations work, and what the new quarantine policies will be.