After nearly 16 months of rigid travel restrictions, Canada is finally starting to loosen the rules — but only for a specific few.
Effective Monday, fully vaccinated Canadians and permanent residents — those who have had a full course of a COVID-19 vaccine approved for use in Canada — will be able to skip the 14-day quarantine.
Eligible air travellers will also be exempt from the requirement that they spend their first three days in Canada in a government-approved hotel.
But the Canada Border Services Agency has a warning: would-be travellers will still be prohibited from entering the country if they were not eligible to travel to Canada before Monday.
Travellers must use the ArriveCAN app or web portal prior to departure to log their vaccination details, as well as the results of a negative COVID-19 test that’s less than three days old.
Anyone who arrived before Monday will still be required to spend a full two weeks in quarantine upon arrival, the agency says.
“If you were unable to come to Canada on July 4 of this year, you can’t come in on July 5 — there’s been no change to all of the restrictions and the provisions that have been issued on that front,” said Denis Vinette, CBSA vice-president, travellers branch.
“However, for those that can come to Canada, it’s a very cautious, early first step in starting to delay or remove some requirements at the border.”
Vinette said the agency is anxious to ensure people understand what is changing, as well as what is not, in order to prevent excessive delays or tie-ups at border control points.
“I think we can expect, certainly in the early days, individuals believing that, you know, July 5 is here, Canada is now open for tourism, recreation and things of that nature. That is not the case,” he said.
“We’ve prepared our front-line staff, who’ve been having to deal with this since the onset, for those types of scenarios.”
Vaccine certification begins
The ArriveCAN portal can be accessed either via the Apple or Android app or online via the federal government’s website at canada.ca. Travellers are required to use the latest version of the app, which will be updated when the regulations change.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he’s confident the CBSA has the tools and the personnel required to deal with the changes Monday, adding that the government’s priority will always be the safety of its citizens.
“I think it’s really important that we are moving forward on allowing people who are currently allowed to come into Canada to be able to do so and not have to quarantine anymore, because they’re double-vaccinated,” said Trudeau, who received his second vaccine shot — this time Moderna, after getting AstraZeneca-Oxford for his first — on Friday.
“For others, we will be looking at how this works before we open up to next steps, but we will continue to put first and foremost the safety and security of Canadians at the top of everything we do.”
The mutual travel restrictions between Canada and the United States — which prohibit all discretionary travel between the two countries while continuing to allow the movement of trade, essential workers and international students — are due to expire July 21.
It’s too soon to say how the rules might evolve by then, Trudeau said.
“When we start reopening so Americans and others who are fully vaccinated can come into Canada will depend on how this goes — on the data we collect, on how we’re able to keep Canadians safe even as we make adjustments to the rules.”