Canada to allow in vaccinated US tourists after 16-month ban

The annoucement will end Canadian restrictions on non-essential travel from the US in place since March last year.

A US Customs and Protection vehicle stands at the Canada-United States border crossing at the Thousand Islands Bridge, to combat the spread of COVID-19 in Lansdowne, Ontario, Canada September 28, 2020 [File: Lars Hagberg/Reuters]

Canada will allow American tourists who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 to enter the country as of August 9, the Canadian government has announced, ending a 16-month ban on most non-essential travel between the neighbouring countries.

In a statement on Monday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government said US citizens and permanent residents who are fully vaccinated at least 14 days prior to travelling would be allowed into Canada without having to quarantine.

Canada and the US – which share the longest international land border in the world – restricted most non-essential travel in March 2020 amid rising coronavirus infections.

Businesses in both nations, particularly the travel and airline industries, had demanded an end to the restrictions.

The Canadian government said inoculated visitors from countries other than the US will be permitted to enter Canada beginning on September 7, explaining that the relaxation depends on COVID-19 epidemiology remaining favourable.

“Canadians’ safety and security always come first,” Canadian Health Minister Patty Hajdu said in Monday’s statement.

“With rising vaccination rates and fewer cases in Canada, we can begin to safely ease border measures. A gradual approach to reopening will allow our health authorities to monitor the COVID-19 situation here and abroad. Canadians have worked hard and sacrificed for each other, and because of that work, we can take these next steps safely,” she said.

A truck leaves the Canada-US border crossing at the Thousand Islands Bridge in Lansdowne, Ontario in September 2020 [File: Lars Hagberg/Reuters]

Canadian Public Safety Minister Bill Blair said US officials told him it was likely Washington would extend the US ban for a month when it expires on July 22.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki declined to say whether the move would be reciprocal.

“We are continuing to review our travel decisions and we’ll be guided by our public health and medical experts,” Psaki said during a news briefing on Monday. “I wouldn’t look at it through a reciprocal intention.”

Trudeau told reporters on Monday afternoon that Canada has kept Washington apprised of its plans to lift restrictions on US travellers. “We will continue to work with them but understand and respect that every country makes its own decisions about what it does at its borders,” he said.

US health officials have warned of a recent rise in COVID-19 infections, with Surgeon General Dr Vivek Murthy saying on Sunday that nearly all coronavirus-related deaths in the country now are among the tens of millions of people who have not been vaccinated.

“I am worried about what is to come because we are seeing increasing cases among the unvaccinated, in particular,” Murthy said in an interview on CNN’s State of the Union news programme.

“And while, if you are vaccinated, you are very well protected against hospitalisation and death, unfortunately, that is not true if you are not vaccinated.”

The US has reported more than 34.1 million cases and more than 609,100 coronavirus-related deaths since the start of the pandemic, according to a tally from Johns Hopkins University. In Canada, more than 26,400 people have died and more than 1.43 million cases have been recorded.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies