THUNDER BAY – Canada’s health minister says she understands the anxiousness of many Canadians to see the country’s land border with the United States reopen to non-essential traffic.
It’s just too soon to put any kind of a timeline on the end of the border closure.
Hajdu on Wednesday helped announce Canada plans to drop its requirement for anyone approved to enter the country to quarantine at a government approved hotel for three days, stating starting in early July those fully vaccinated will only be required to take a test upon arrival at the border and isolate until a negative result is received.
However, the government gave no indication when it might ease other restrictions, including the return of non-essential travel between the two countries.
The border has been closed since March 2020, though Canadians have been able to fly to the United States, with restrictions in place upon their return.
Non-essential international travelers have not been allowed to journey to Canada, either by land or air since the pandemic restrictions were put in place.
More Canadians will need to be fully vaccinated, and the country will also keep a close eye on what’s happening with COVID-19 internationally, before determining whether or not to reopen borders. The Delta variant spread will also be a factor.
There’s no point in reopening, only to have to shut things down again, Hajdu said.
“Canada is taking a cautious approach because Canadians have made very huge sacrifices over the last year-and-a-half to protect each other, to protect their communities and we don’t want to see that progress go to waste,” Hajdu said.
“We want to get to that finish line, where we have some certainty for small and medium-sized businesses, for students, for families that we are in a much safer place.”
Canada’s soon-to-be-implemented loosened quarantine requirements could encourage Canadians to flock to the U.S. should the Americans decide to go it alone and reopen its land borders.
It’s a possibility, Hajdu admitted.
“Anything is possible with another country. They have obviously sovereignty over their decisions, just as Canada has over ours. They may choose to do that, and if they choose to do that, then of course that will be up to individual Canadians about whether or not they want to travel and comply with the requirements coming back into the country,” Hajdu said, while expressing sympathy for tourism-impacted businesses on both sides of the border looking for clarity on when they can expect traffic to resume.
A day earlier, Canada’s chief public health officer, Dr. Theresa Tam, indicated the next step in the border reopening process might come once 75 per cent of Canadians have been double vaccinated. This could happen by the end of July, based on current and future vaccine supply expectations.
As for proof of vaccination, it remains a work in progress, the health minister said.
For people coming into Canada, they’ll be able to upload their vaccination documentation into the ArriveCan app, which will be accessible by border patrol officers.
“CBSA is working right now on the technological changes to the app so that it’s possible.”
Outbound travelers may need proof of vaccination to enter other countries and that documentation will have to satisfy demands from those nations.
“We are making headway. We have an agreement with the provinces and territories now that this does need to be facilitated and the work is ongoing that as we provide Canadians with the standardized proof so they can travel internationally, that their health data is carefully protected.”
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