Canada extends COVID border closures with US until July 21

There are growing calls in the US and in Canada to open the border for nonessential travel like tourism.

Canada is expected to reveal on June 21 how it plans to start lifting border measures for fully vaccinated Canadians [File: Lars Hagberg/Reuters]

Border restrictions on nonessential travel with the United States will be extended until July 21, officials said Friday, as Canada works to get a higher percentage of Canadians fully vaccinated.

Public Safety Minister Bill Blair said the move has been made in coordination with the US. There are growing calls in the US to open the Canada-US border for nonessential travel like tourism, but less than 20 percent of Canadians are fully vaccinated.

“We’re still seeing cases across the country and we want to get them down,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said. “At the same time we also know we have to hit our targets of 75 percent vaccinated with the first dose and at least 20 percent vaccinated with the second dose before we can start loosening things up because even a fully vaccinated individual can pass on COVID-19 to someone who is not vaccinated.”

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tours pharmaceutical company Pfizer in Puurs, Belgium with Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo [File: Frederic Sierakowski/Pool via Reuters]

Trudeau said they need to ensure communities to which fully vaccinated travelers return to are not at risk

“Even though they are protected from hospitalisation the people around them might not be,” Trudeau said.

The border between Canada and the US remains closed to all nonessential travel. The restrictions were announced in March, 2020 in the early months of the pandemic and have been extended every month since.

Even some provinces in Canada remain closed to each other. Ontario and Quebec only opened this week for nonessential travel between the two provinces. And Atlantic Canada will be closed to Canadians from elsewhere in Canada well into July.

The Canadian government expects to have enough vaccine delivered for 80 percent of eligible Canadians to be fully vaccinated by the end of July.

About 70 percent of eligible Canadians have had at least one dose of vaccine and second doses are ramping up this month and next. Canada delayed administering a second dose to get more people a level of protection with the first dose faster and as the country waited for more supply to arrive.

Canada only started getting US-manufactured vaccines in May as the US did not allow for exports until then. Canada had largely been getting vaccines from Europe until Pfizer doses began arriving from Pfizer’s Michigan plant in May.

Blair noted the government plans to release details on Monday about fully vaccinated Canadians who return to the country. The Trudeau government has said it anticipates fully vaccinated Canadian citizens who test negative for COVID-19 will be exempt from two weeks of quarantine when returning to the country in early July.

Canada’s government is also under pressure from businesses and the tourism industry to ease the ban, which are concerned about further damage to the economy.

The United States is Canada’s largest trading partner.

Although the ban does not affect trade in goods, it is hitting travel operators and the export of services.

Canada had largely been getting vaccines from Europe until Pfizer doses began arriving from Pfizer’s Michigan plant in May [File: Frederic Sierakowski/Pool via Reuters]

The Canadian Chamber of Commerce – a national group that advocates for businesses – lamented what it said was Ottawa’s excessive caution.

“I’m disappointed … all of the science would say we should be moving ahead to reopen the border. We don’t even have a plan at this point,” said Perrin Beatty, the group’s president and chief executive.

“Unfortunately … we are the world leader in terms of first shots and we are a world laggard when it comes to having a strategy,” he said in a phone interview.

Source: News Agencies