The popularity of the federal government’s ArriveCAN app, which vaccinated Canadians must soon use to skip quarantine when entering the country, has spiked, seeming to indicate that Canadians are itching to travel, days before pandemic travel measures relax for the first time, and “weeks” before even more restrictions are supposed to lift.
On July 5, Canada’s quarantine requirements will be eased in a big way for the first time since coming into force in March 2020. After Monday, eligible entrants to Canada — consisting mainly of Canadians and permanent residents — won’t have to quarantine for 14 days or stay in a government-approved hotel, as long as they’re fully vaccinated against COVID and agree to other measures that mostly involve testing.
Travellers will have to show proof of vaccination upon entry, which means they’ll need their original vaccine documents. They’ll also need to upload those documents to the Canada Border Services Agency’s ArriveCAN app, which will be updated after July 5 to make that possible.
Likely out of excitement that the mandatory quarantine is lifting, downloads of the app have jumped, with Transport Minister Omar Alghabra saying on Tuesday that “ArriveCAN is the most popular app in Canada.” (iPolitics was unable to verify this, as Alghabra’s staff could not provide evidence of the claim. However, the app was ranked No. 37 among free apps in Apple’s app store on Tuesday afternoon, placing it ahead of apps like Tinder, Airbnb, Tim Hortons, Sportsnet and RBC Mobile. It was also among Google Play’s top free apps. Almost 70,000 people had rated it on Apple’s and Google’s app-buying platforms, combined.)
“This is a sign that a lot of travellers are downloading it, and that’s great,” Alghabra said in response to a question from iPolitics.
Polling of Canadians’ willingness to travel abroad has yielded mixed results in recent months, but it appears that the 90 per cent drop in travel caused by the pandemic is about to experience a massive rebound.
The government has called the plans for July 5 “Phase 1” of eased border restrictions. Concrete details of subsequent phases haven’t yet been announced.
On Tuesday, Alghabra said Phase 2 will be revealed “weeks from now,” rather than months. Phase 3 will follow, he said.
The phases’ timing will depend on the vaccination rate, Alghabra said.
Public Safety Minister Bill Blair has said the government wants to wait until 75 per cent of all Canadians are fully vaccinated before normal travel can resume. As of Tuesday, more than 67 per cent of Canadians had received one vaccine dose and 29 per cent had received two. Based on both the pace of vaccines’ expected arrival in Canada and their injection into arms, Canada could be three-quarters covered by the end of July.
The government is also keen not to have to re-impose travel restrictions after lifting them, Alghabra said.
“We’ve seen in other countries where sometimes, if you get ahead of yourself, you end up having to re-adjust these measures and roll them back, and we never want to see that,” he said. “We never want to see ourselves getting too far ahead.”
Alghabra, Blair, Health Minister Patty Hajdu, Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam, officials from the Public Health Agency of Canada, and the provincial governments are continuously discussing when, exactly, phases should begin, Alghabra said.
In an unidentified future phase, it’s expected that Canada, along with a group of allied nations, will establish standardized and verifiable COVID-vaccine passports for fully vaccinated travellers. Canadian officials continue working on the system with the International Civil Aviation Organization, a United Nations group that sets standards for air travel, and the G7, Alghabra said Tuesday.
Alghabra wouldn’t say if the government is working toward a deadline to develop a mutually recognized vaccine passport.
More from iPolitics