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Canada loosens more travel restrictions for fully vaccinated travellers

Canada loosens more travel restrictions for fully vaccinated travellers-Milenio Stadium-Canada
Cars heading into Canada line the Rainbow International Bridge, in Niagara Falls, just after midnight on Aug. 9, 2021. Canada will now allow fully vaccinated Americans to both enter the country and skip the previously mandatory 14-day quarantine period as part of an easing of COVID-19 restrictions on travel. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

For more than a year and a half, Canada kept its doors closed to most non-essential foreign travellers. But that changed Monday morning when the federal government reopened our air, land and sea borders to fully vaccinated Americans. 

Washington’s reasons for keeping border closed to Canadians still murky a week later

The government has also loosened several travel restrictions that apply to Canadians returning home from abroad.

Here’s what has changed at the Canadian border.

The Americans are coming

For more than a month, fully vaccinated Canadian travellers have been allowed to skip quarantine when returning home from abroad.

In a continuation of its phased reopening of the border, effective Monday, fully vaccinated Americans can both enter Canada and skip the mandatory 14-day quarantine.

But before eager Americans pack their bags, they should make sure they meet all requirements, said Denis Vinette, vice-president of the Canada Border Services Agency’s COVID-19 border task force.

“People need to know what their obligations are,” he said.

First, to be considered fully vaccinated, Americans must have received all required doses of a Health Canada-approved COVID-19 vaccine 14 days prior to entering Canada.

Second, only U.S. citizens and permanent residents residing in and travelling from the United States will be permitted entry.

And, just like Canadian travellers, Americans must submit their travel information — including vaccination documents — using the ArriveCAN app or by registering online within 72 hours before their arrival. On Monday, the government launched a new version of the app, so travellers should make sure they download the latest version.

Testing requirements

Although they get to skip quarantine, all fully vaccinated travellers entering Canada must still provide proof of a negative COVID-19 molecular test taken within 72 hours of arrival. Air passengers need to take the test within 72 hours of the scheduled departure time of their final direct flight to Canada.

On Monday, Kim and Paul Zavesky — both fully vaccinated Americans — were in Whitefish, Mont., around 100 kilometres from the British Columbia border. The couple took their required COVID-19 tests Monday morning — at a cost of about $300 Cdn each.

Since the start of the Canada-U.S. border closure to non-essential traffic in March 2020, the Zaveskys had been blocked from accessing the only home they currently own — a house in Golden, in southeastern B.C.

As soon as they get their test results, the couple plans to cross into Canada and stay at their much-missed B.C. home for six months.

“I’m so excited. I just started crying when they announced [the new rules]. It was crazy,” said Kim Zavesky. “Once I cross, once I get there, I’ll sit and cry for [another] 20 minutes.”

Zim Zavesky with the husband-Milenio Stadium-Canada
Kim Zavesky and her husband, Paul — both fully vaccinated Americans — were in Whitefish, Mont., on Monday, about 100 kilometers from the Canadian border. They took their required COVID-19 tests Monday morning and are waiting for their test results so they can cross into Canada. (Submitted by Kim Zavesky)

Previously, when vaccinated travellers arrived in Canada, they had to take another COVID-19 test provided and paid for by the government.

However, starting Monday, vaccinated travellers get to skip that second test — unless they’re randomly selected to take it.

“It will be a mandatory random-testing regime,” said Vinette. “This surveillance program will allow us to be able to determine, based on the sampling of a pool size, what are the potential risks … in terms of travellers who’ve been vaccinated who may still be carrying COVID.”

COVID-19 test-Milenio Stadium-Canada
Fully vaccinated travellers entering Canada will be able to skip the mandatory post-arrival COVID-19 test — unless they’re randomly selected to take it. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

Fully vaccinated travellers who test positive for COVID-19, or who fail to meet Canada’s vaccination requirements, have two choices: They can either quarantine for 14 days or return to the country from which they departed.

“If you drove into Canada, [you can] drive back out of Canada, back into the United States,” Vinette said.

Travelling with children

Also starting Monday, Canada will allow unvaccinated children under the age of 12 and travelling with fully vaccinated parents to skip quarantine.

Older unvaccinated children still have to quarantine, but children under 12 get an exemption because they currently can’t get vaccinated in either Canada or the U.S.

Those children will still be required to take a COVID-19 test upon arrival, plus another one eight days later — unless they’re under the age of five. Both tests will be provided for free by the government.

Parents travelling with unvaccinated children exempt from quarantine are asked to make sure their children take the necessary health precautions, such as avoiding large crowds.

“They can accompany their parent or guardian out of the house to their destination, so long as they avoid group settings like summer camp, school or childcare for 14 days,” federal Health Minister Patty Hajdu said at a news conference last month.

American families travelling with unvaccinated children between the ages of 12 and 17 can still enter Canada, but the children must quarantine for 14 days.

More reopenings in September

Also as of Monday, fully vaccinated French citizens who reside in Saint-Pierre-et-Miquelon, a French territory near Newfoundland and Labrador, can enter Canada.

The government plans to reopen Canada’s borders to fully vaccinated travellers from the rest of the world on Sept. 7, but that rule and others may change if Canada gets hit with a serious fourth wave of COVID-19.

Last week, Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam announced that the country’s COVID-19 infections are ticking upward. Vaccinated travellers are considered low risk, she said, but the government will continue to monitor the situation.

“We’re taking a precautionary, phased approach to the border reopening,” Tam said Thursday. “If we see any significant concerns, of course, we can adjust accordingly.”

Canadian travellers should also take note that the U.S. side of the Canada-U.S. land border remains closed to non-essential travellers until at least Aug. 21. However, Canadians have been able to fly to the U.S. since the start of the pandemic.

And all unvaccinated travellers entering Canada by air come Monday will no longer have to spend part of their quarantine in a government-designated hotel. However, they still must quarantine for 14 days upon arrival and take all the required COVID-19 tests.

Finally, some provinces have provincial travel rules and restrictions in place, so travellers should check if they need to meet any local requirements when entering Canada.

Border town exemptions

Another new travel rule-change is that residents of Point Roberts, Wash., Hyder, Alaska, and the Northwest Angle in Minnesota will be allowed to enter Canada regardless of their vaccinated status.

All three communities are cut off from the rest of the U.S. because of the placement of the border.

For residents like Annelle Norman, who is fully vaccinated and lives in Point Roberts — a nub at the end of the peninsula it shares with Tsawwassen in Metro Vancouver — the pandemic has been devastating.

“It will feel like getting out of jail,” Norman said of the border reopening.

CBC

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