Canada is eyeing a relaxation of its international border restrictions, with fully vaccinated travelers top of the queue. Canada’s borders have been closed to most travelers since 2020, including travelers from the neighboring USA. But with vaccination rates increasing, Canadian government officials are indicating these rules may soon change.
Justin Trudeau flags reopening Canada to travelers
Travelers allowed into Canada, including returning Canadian citizens, now face tough 14-day quarantine periods. With the normally busy summer season underway, Canada’s airline industry is among many stakeholders pushing for an easing of border rules.
There are signs the Canadian Government is listening. Over 8% of Canadians and 42% of United States residents are now fully vaccinated, with 60% of Canadians and 52% of their southern neighbors having at least one dose. An agreement that limits non-essential travel between Canada and the USA is expiring on June 21. Many believe that is a good time to change Canada’s travel restrictions.
“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,” said Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Monday.
The Prime Minister said caution would be the name of the game. To begin with, only fully vaccinated travelers would be allowed into Canada. Mr Trudeau did not specify a timeline, but Canadian government officials are informally briefing local media a July date is likely. However, that remains contingent on the vaccination rollout continuing and no further infection waves.
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Airline lobby groups welcome easing in travel & quarantine rules
It is a step forward airlines across North America will welcome. Last week, airline lobby groups Airlines for America and the National Airlines Council of Canada joined forces to write to the Canadian Government, calling for a clear plan for the safe restart of transborder air travel.
“Now is the time for the federal government to engage immediately with airlines to deliver a clear roadmap and timeline to reopen the air border,” the June 4 letter reads.
“Canada and the U.S. have one of the largest and most comprehensive investment relationships in the world. Air travel is a critical enabler of trade between our countries that was worth US$718 billion in 2019.”
In May, a Canadian government advisory panel recommended the phased reopening of the border. But problems include establishing uniform proof of vaccination protocols and overcoming resistance in some quarters to health passports.
Critical to boosting the number of inbound arrivals is Canada is relaxing the current quarantine rules. Whether Canada abandons quarantine for fully vaccinated travelers or merely shortens the time, remains up in the air.
WestJet asks for science-based evidence to guide travel & border rules
As vaccination rates continue to rise, Canada’s second-largest airline, WestJet, is calling for an easing of “onerous border measures.” Citing the advisory panel report, WestJet wants border rules to be based on science-based evidence, arguing a combination of testing and quarantine regimes can facilitate cross-border travel and keep Canadians safe. In a statement, WestJet says.
“We ask that the government immediately prepare a safe restart plan based on this report and current global policies. With vaccinations ramping up, Canadians need to know they can travel once again.”
With a normally busy July 1 holiday in Canada and July 4 holiday in the USA around the corner, there is pressure on the Canadian Government to decide on borders and quarantine sooner rather than later.