Canadians might be able to resume travelling internationally this summer if they show proof they’ve been vaccinated against COVID-19, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Tuesday.
But that’s only “if everything goes well” with the pandemic, and if Canada’s allies come to similar decisions about vaccine passports.
“Perhaps this summer, if everything goes well, it would make sense for us to align with partners around the world on some sort of proof of vaccination or vaccine certification,” Trudeau told reporters during a news conference on Tuesday.
“We are now working with allies, particularly in Europe, on that. But ultimately, it is up to every country to determine what requirements they expect from incoming travellers. We are looking very carefully at it, hoping to align with allied countries.”
The prime minister’s comments are the latest of many the government has made in favour of granting special travel privileges to Canadians who can prove they’ve been vaccinated against COVID.
Last week, Trudeau said vaccine certificates, also known as vaccine passports, are “to be expected.”
Ever since Health Minister Patty Hajdu first confirmed two months ago that Canada was exploring the idea, federal officials have maintained they’re only interested in how vaccine passports could be used to restart international travel. Ottawa isn’t interested in requiring them to enter places like concert halls and restaurants, as other countries such as Israel have done. In Canada, though, provinces and territories — and even local public health units — could impose these requirements.
“Some universities and colleges may require vaccinations,” Hajdu said on CTV’s Question Period on Sunday. “There might be requirements for certain workplaces, and those are all … determined at local and provincial levels.”
— CTV Question Period (@ctvqp) May 2, 2021
The idea of vaccine passports didn’t originate with the COVID pandemic. Some countries already use them, and require travellers to prove they’ve been vaccinated against diseases like polio and yellow fever before entering.
Last week, Public Health England published the first substantial study to show that even if someone’s had just one dose of a COVID vaccine, the risk that he or she will spread the virus after catching it is significantly reduced.
Following “the latest scientific advice showing that vaccination considerably helps to break the transmission chain,” on Monday, the European Commission proposed letting people travel to the European Union from outside the bloc after they’ve been fully vaccinated.
The proposal is that travellers wouldn’t be allowed from other countries until Europe’s own vaccine-certificate system is set up, and they’d have to be from “countries with a good epidemiological situation.”
Right now, Canada’s infection rate would disqualify it. The European Commission is suggesting letting in travellers only from countries with a maximum average rate of 100 cases per 100,000 people per day. Currently, Canada’s average daily rate is 146 cases per 100,000 people.
Canada’s vaccine rollout has accelerated in recent weeks, causing the average daily case count to fall, but the last time it fell below 100 per 100,000 people was around a month ago.
“We are all hopeful we’re going to be able to get back to normal in the coming months and start traveling again,” Trudeau said. “But the reality is we’re not there yet; we’re still very much in a third wave. We still need to get more and more people vaccinated across this country and get those numbers down.”
A representative from the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) is also now participating in the World Health Organization’s development of vaccine-passport standards, said PHAC president Iain Stewart, speaking to a parliamentary committee on Friday.
In addition to working on a way to check vaccination status at Canada’s borders, PHAC is involved in a project called “vaccine connect,” an IT and data-management platform that could be used to support a vaccine-passport system, Stewart said.
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