Sunday,  July 25, 2021  1:33 am

Canada set to unveil border changes, non-essential travel will still be discouraged: Blair

Canada set to unveil border changes, non-essential travel will still be discouraged: Blair
Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Bill Blair. (CBC)
Michael Pihach

Michael Pihach is an award-winning journalist with a keen interest in digital storytelling. In addition to PAX, Michael has also written for CBC Life, Ryerson University Magazine, IN Magazine, and DailyXtra.ca. Michael joins PAX after years of working at popular Canadian television shows, such as Steven and Chris, The Goods and The Marilyn Denis Show.

Canada is expected to unlock more details on the easing of travel restrictions today (June 21) as Canada passed a key threshold in COVID-19 vaccination numbers over the weekend.

As federal officials announced last week, the loosening of border and quarantine measures (including the discontinuation of hotel stopovers) will apply to fully vaccinated Canadians, permanent residents, foreign students and essential workers.

Ottawa also revealed that a vaccination certification system will soon be added to the already-built ArriveCAN app in July for those who wish to travel abroad.

In a matter of weeks, vaccinated travellers, using the app, will be able to upload an image of their paper or emailed proof of vaccination so border agents can verify that they are, indeed, fully vaccinated.

READ MORE: Vaccine certificates going live in July via ArriveCAN app, reports say

An enhanced national vaccine certificate system is then expected to arrive by fall, officials said.

Ottawa, on Friday (June 18), announced that international travel restrictions and the ban on non-essential travel at the Canada-U.S. border would be extended until July 21. The deadline was previously set for today (June 21).

“We’re not out of this pandemic yet,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said at a press conference on Friday.

The target for easing travel rules, Trudeau said, is to get 75 per cent of Canadians vaccinated with the first dose and at least 20 per cent vaccinated with a second dose.

READ MORE: Restrictions on int'l travel, Canada-U.S. border extended to July 21; Trudeau talks vaccine certificates

Writing on his Twitter account last week, Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Bill Blair confirmed that further details on easing travel measures will be announced on Monday (June 21). 

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau addresses media on June 18, 2021.

Last week, Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs Dominic LeBlanc said the government will announce "modest phased-in adjustments at the border'' by Monday, but noted that changes won’t necessarily take effect on June 21 specifically.

We may signal in the renewal of these [orders] some modest, phased-in adjustments at the border, but with a date fixed to take effect. It doesn’t have to take effect on the 21st of June,” LeBlanc said.

Non-essential travel will be discouraged

Changes to border restrictions will be limited to a few measures and non-essential travel will still discouraged, Minister Blair told CBC’s Rosemary Barton in an interview that aired Sunday (June 20). 

There will be "changes with respect to the government-assisted hotels, perhaps some implication on who would be subject to quarantine, what it means to be a fully vaccinated traveller and what changes can now be accommodated for those people who are, in fact, fully vaccinated," Blair said.

The policy change comes as many Canadian provinces have hit those magic numbers for easing restrictions (75/20).

The ArriveCAN app is a mobile tool that launched last year.

Meanwhile, select U.S. officials are furious that the Canada-U.S. border, which has restricted travel since March 2020, will remain closed for another month.

"I wish there was a more artful way to say this — but this is bullshit," tweeted Rep. Brian Higgins, a Democratic congressman whose Buffalo, N.Y., on Friday.

While Ottawa seems to have legit intentions of loosening travel rules, Minister Blair, on Sunday, warned that Canada wouldn't reach "the finish line" until about 75 per cent of eligible Canadians have achieved full vaccination.

Still, Minister Blair fully expects that there will be a spike in travel in the coming weeks as restrictions ease for some. 

"I'm absolutely certain it's going to have an impact on traveller volumes," Blair told CBC.

The government has made it clear that exemptions, initially, will not apply to tourists or foreign business travellers that aren’t essential workers

Eligible travellers will still be required to obtain a negative pre-departure PCR test, undergo a PCR test on arrival and quarantine, at home, until a negative test result is processed.

The element people “overlook” when it comes to fully vaccinated travel is that having both doses of a vaccine doesn’t protect the community from catching the virus, Prime Minister Trudeau told reporters last week.  

“It’s not just about saying you’re fully vaccinated – ‘have fun, run around’ – it’s about saying you’re returning to a country where we haven’t yet reached high enough thresholds of second-dose vaccination.”

“We’re getting there quickly, but that’s why we’re looking at a phased approach to easing border restrictions," he said.


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