People who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 — and only those who are fully vaccinated — will soon be able to sidestep some COVID restrictions when entering Canada, according to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
Which restrictions they’ll be able to dodge is still unclear, with Trudeau unwilling to give many more details at a press conference on Tuesday.
Currently, Canada has among the strictest travel restrictions in the world. Most non-Canadians and non-residents aren’t allowed in Canada. Flights from India and Pakistan are banned because the government detected high percentages of travellers coming from the countries were testing positive for COVID when they arrived in Canada. Of those who can enter the country, most must test negative for the virus within 72 hours of arriving. 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 again. Quarantine hotel-stayers must then complete a 14-day quarantine, like people entering at the land border are also required to do, at a location of their own choosing.
A federally appointed expert advisory panel recommended the government overhaul its travel and border restrictions on May 27. It said Ottawa should reduce the mandatory maximum quarantine for anyone entering the country to just seven days. People who are partially vaccinated, have previously had COVID and who are fully vaccinated should all face less restrictions when entering the country, the COVID-19 Testing and Screening Expert Advisory Panel said.
Trudeau, however, said in French that his government is only considering easing restrictions “based on science,” which is why only fully vaccinated people — those, who in the case of most widely used COVID vaccines with the exception of Johnson & Johnson’s, have received two doses — will be able to soon avoid as restrictive measures.
“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 aimed at preventing the spread of the Delta variant, also known as the B.1.617.2 variant, Trudeau said. The Delta variant is more contagious than the original strain of COVID that spread around the world. It’s also shown to be more resilient against vaccines than the original virus or other variants.
“Once we have protection of two doses, we are more highly 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 to gauge their opinions on what changes should be made. CBC News also reported yesterday that the federal government has reached out to border town mayors about reopening, while Bloomberg reported that changes will be announced “within days.”
Despite being pressed by reporters for specificity around when eased restrictions may be announced, Trudeau resisted using precise language on Tuesday.
“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; and, “There are going to be stages, which will make it possible to ease the rules in the coming weeks and months. There will be announcements to make in due course,” he said, in a third answer.
Many of Canada’s current travel and border restrictions are set to expire on June 21. Many of the restrictions currently in place, like the closure of the Canada-U.S. border, have been extended each month. June 21 will mark 15 months since the Canada-U.S. border was closed to most non-essential travel. The mandatory 14-day quarantine for entering travellers has also been in place since around when the border first closed. Other measures have gradually been added since then.
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