People who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 will soon be able to sidestep some restrictions when entering Canada, according to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
Which restrictions they’ll be able to dodge is still unclear, and Trudeau gave few other details at a news conference on Tuesday.
Currently, Canada has among the strictest travel restrictions in the world. Most non-Canadians and non-residents aren’t allowed in. Flights from India and Pakistan are banned, because the government found that high percentages of travellers coming from those countries were testing positive for COVID. Of those who can enter, most must test negative for the virus within 72 hours. If they arrive by air, they have to stay in a government-approved hotel for up to three days, at a cost of up to $3,000, until they test negative for COVID. They must then complete a 14-day quarantine, as people crossing land borders are also required to do, at a location of their own choosing.
A federally appointed panel of experts recommended on May 27 that the government overhaul its travel and border restrictions. It said Ottawa should reduce to seven days the mandatory maximum quarantine for anyone entering the country. People who are partially vaccinated, who’ve already had COVID, and who are fully vaccinated should face fewer restrictions, the COVID-19 Testing and Screening Expert Advisory Panel said.
But Trudeau, speaking in French, said his government will only ease restrictions “based on science,” which is why only fully vaccinated people — in most cases with two doses, with the exception of Johnson & Johnson’s, which requires only one dose — will soon be exempt from most precautions.
“It’s very clear that, even though one dose has allowed us to significantly protect Canadians and remove many of the pressures from our public health systems, it is still an incomplete protection,” Trudeau said in English. “We need people to get the full two doses of their vaccines, and that’s why easing of restrictions will be focused on Canadians who are fully vaccinated.”
Requiring two doses is specifically meant to prevent the spread of the Delta variant, also known as the B.1.617.2 variant, Trudeau said, which is more contagious than the original strain of COVID that spread around the world. It’s also more resistant to vaccines than the original virus and other variants.
“Once we have two doses, we are better protected, (and) we can better protect our communities than is possible with just one dose,” Trudeau said in French.
Following the publication of the expert advisory panel’s report on how Canada’s border measures should evolve, the federal government turned to the provinces and territories for their opinions on what changes should be made. CBC News also reported yesterday that the federal government has discussed reopening with the mayors of border towns, while Bloomberg reported that changes will be announced “within days.”
Despite being pressed by reporters wanting to know on Tuesday exactly when the looser restrictions will be announced, Trudeau avoided using precise language.
“At the right time,” border measures will be relaxed, Trudeau said in response to one question. “When there are announcements to make, you can be sure we’ll be making them,” he said to another. “There are going to be stages, which will make it possible to ease the rules in the coming weeks and months,” he said in a third answer. “There will be announcements to make in due course.”
Many of Canada’s current travel and border restrictions are set to expire on June 21. Many, like the closure of the Canada-U.S. border, have been extended every month. June 21 will mark 15 months since the border was closed to most non-essential travel. The mandatory 14-day quarantine has also been in place since then. Other measures have gradually been added since.
This story was copy-edited after publication.
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