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Health unit looking at loosening travel recommendations

Dr. Janet DeMille says she expects people will be able to travel outside of the district safely this summer, but cautioned against the Delta variant and urged anyone who does vacation to use extreme precaution when outside of Northwestern Ontario.
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THUNDER BAY – The Thunder Bay District Health Unit is set to unveil changes to travel recommendations for those living within its catchment area.

Medical officer of health Dr. Janet DeMille says a likely relaxation of the rules is coming, thanks in part to low case counts within the district and the increase in vaccinations.

As of Thursday there were 51 active cases in the District of Thunder Bay, about 15 of which are in the city and surrounding areas.

The health unit last updated its travel recommendations on Nov. 20, 2020, advising against, but not banning, non-essential travel outside of Northwestern Ontario.

They recommend any resident who does travel outside the region stay home for 14 days, especially if they’ve travelled to high-risk areas, monitor for symptoms and not interact with others outside their household. 

Travellers are not currently required to follow these guidelines, though many workplaces enforce the rules and ask anyone who has travelled outside the district to stay home for 14 days, often without pay. 

“In terms of travel, I think we did well last summer and I think people still need to take all the proper precautions if they’re going to go somewhere, to be aware of what’s happening with the virus in that particular area, to be very mindful of not undertaking activities that might expose them to the virus, such as large indoor gatherings,” DeMille said.

“I certainly would encourage people to get their vaccine before they go. Ideally both doses would be great, but at least one before any travel happens.”

As of last Saturday, 66.3 per cent of those 12 and older have had at least one COVID-19 shot, with 14.1 per cent of adults 18 and older having had both shots.

DeMille said she’ll still be asking travelers to monitor themselves upon return and have a low threshold for getting tested if they show any symptoms at all.

For now, destinations remain limited.

Ontarians can freely travel within the province, but are limited to where they can go in other parts of the country. In B.C., essential travel only is recommended and traveling between regions within the province is not allowed. In Manitoba, 14 days of isolation are required for anyone entering the province from another jurisdiction.

Ontario residents are also currently not allowed to enter Quebec or the Atlantic provinces, with few exceptions. The American land border remains closed, and while restrictions will loosen for air travelers in July, some quarantine measures will remain in place until at least 75 per cent of the population is double vaccinated.

Canadians can travel to the European union, beginning on July 1, one of 15 countries on a safe list, but the list is subject to review every 14 days. Most international travel into Canada is still not permitted.

Despite the limitations, DeMille said it is reasonable to think people can safely travel this summer.

She cautioned the Delta variant could throw a wrench into the health unit’s travel recommendations.

“If we see the Delta variant spread more broadly, then travel can certainly introduce it into our area and that can be quite challenging for us to deal with. People do need to take all the precautions if they do travel.”

Leith Dunick

About the Author: Leith Dunick

A proud Nova Scotian who has called Thunder Bay home since 2002, Leith has been the editor of Thunder Bay Source for 19 years and has served a similar role with since 2009. Wants his Expos back. Twitter: @LeithDunick
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