OTTAWA — Canada will ease border restrictions for fully vaccinated, discretionary travelers from the United States on Aug. 9 before loosening the Covid-19 measures for those from other countries on Sept. 7.
The Trudeau government’s announcement Monday followed months of pressure on Ottawa and Washington, D.C., to ease the rules on nonessential travel at the Canada-U.S. frontier.
A major unanswered question is how and when the Biden administration will peel back its own measures at the shared border.
A senior cabinet minister in Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government said Monday that while the U.S. administration will make its own call on the border, Canada is looking forward to hearing about American changes.
“We hope that at the right moment the American government will be able to change their border measures, however, we respect that it’s their decision,” Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic LeBlanc told reporters in French after the announcement. “We will continue to work in a privileged way with the Americans and we hope to have news from them soon.”
Your move, U.S.A.: Canadian officials said while they’ve been in constant contact with their American counterparts, they have no information about how the U.S. might proceed.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki was asked later Monday about Canada’s border reopening plan.
“We are continuing to review our travel restrictions,” Psaki told reporters in Washington. “Any decisions about reopening travel will be guided by our public health and medical experts. We take this incredibly seriously. We look and are guided by our own medical experts. I wouldn’t look at it through a reciprocal intention.”
Canadian Public Safety Minister Bill Blair, who joined his cabinet colleagues at Monday’s press conference, said that he spoke last Friday with Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas about Ottawa’s plan to ease the border restrictions.
“He indicated to me, at this time, they have not yet made a decision,” Blair said of his conversation with Mayorkas. “They anticipate their current measures will likely be rolled over on July 21. They are obviously considering additional measures and data, but at the present time they have not indicated a plan to make any changes in their current border restrictions.”
Quick dose of background: The calls to reopen the Canada-U.S. border have come from both countries, including from lawmakers, business leaders and families separated since the restrictions were put in place in March 2020.
Canada’s vaccination rate has climbed past the U.S. in recent days, while case counts and hospitalizations have dropped. The border rules, however, will only be pared back over the coming weeks if Canada’s epidemiology remains favorable, the federal government said.
The details Monday follow Trudeau’s statement last week that further reopening steps were on the way.
Officials said the month-to-month bilateral arrangement keeping the restrictions in place, which is set to expire Wednesday, will be renewed and amended in time for the Aug. 9 changes.
Here’s a quick guide to the adjustments on the way at the Canadian border:
Traveling to Canada: Starting at 12:01 a.m. ET on Aug. 9, fully vaccinated U.S. citizens and permanent residents residing in the U.S. will be allowed to enter Canada for nonessential travel.
Canada will continue to deny entry to those who have yet to be fully vaccinated unless they are already exempt under the Quarantine Act.
Fully vaccinated travelers from other parts of the world will get the green light Sept. 7.
Getting through the door: To enter Canada, travelers must have received their full series of a vaccine — approved by Health Canada — at least 14 days prior to their arriving at the border.
The approved vaccines are Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson, Canadian officials say they are actively studying whether to eventually accept individuals who received doses of other vaccines.
Those arriving in Canada must provide evidence of their vaccination in English, French or a certified translation in addition to the original. Travelers will also be required to upload Covid-related information, including proof of vaccination, through the ArriveCan app or web portal before departure to Canada.
Visitors must also be asymptomatic upon arrival and meet pre-entry screening requirements, including a new border program that randomly selects people to complete a Covid test the day of their arrival.
In case travelers fail to meet all of the conditions, they are required to have a suitable quarantine plan ready to present at the border.
Traveling with kids: Unvaccinated children under 12 years old who are traveling with fully vaccinated parents will no longer have to complete a 14-day quarantine.
However, these kids will have to follow strict rules such as avoiding group settings during the first 14 days after their arrival. They must also complete tests on the first and eighth days after they enter Canada.
More airports: Canada also announced it will expand its list of airports that will receive international flights.
Transport Minister Omar Alghabra told reporters the airports in Halifax, Quebec City, Ottawa, Winnipeg and Edmonton will now accept flights from other countries.
How Canada’s reopening is going: Health Minister Patty Hajdu told reporters Monday that of the more than 63,000 fully vaccinated Canadians who have returned to Canada since the government relaxed its quarantine rules earlier this month, “under 10 individuals” have tested positive for Covid-19.
Moving forward, Hajdu said public health officials will continue to monitor key data, including immunization rates, hospitalizations and the evolution of the virus and variants in other countries.
Any setbacks could affect Canada’s border plans.
“This virus has thrown us many curveballs,” she said.