The federal government on Wednesday announced that “fully vaccinated” Canadian travellers will no longer require mandatory COVID-19 hotel quarantine upon arrival in Canada. Come July, the exemption will apply to Canadian citizens and permanent residents flying back home, according to Intergovernmental Minister Dominic LeBlanc.
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Fully vaccinated individuals, including “permanent residents, essential workers” will be able to cross the border without having to stay in a government-approved hotel, LeBlanc said during a COVID-19 press conference Wednesday.
“As Prime Minister Trudeau has said a number of times, we will adjust border measures gradually keeping the health of Canadians, first and foremost, in our sights,” LeBlanc said.
Federal health minister Patty Hadju said that these new measures are “being considered as the first step” in a phased approach to easing travel restrictions.
She said Canadians will need to have received their second dose “14 days or more prior to their arrival” home. The relaxation of rules does not apply to tourists.
“We’ll be watching carefully here in Canada and around the world as cases change and as vaccinations rates rise,” Hajdu said. “These metrics are very important factors.”
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While the government will soon waive the need for Canadian air travellers to isolate in a pre-authorized hotel, travellers will still be required to take a COVID-19 test on arrival, and stay in isolation until the test comes back negative, Hajdu said.
That isolation plan would be up to them, meaning the waiting period could happen at home.
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The Canadian government had barred non-essential travel, including the arrival of non-essential foreign nationals into the country in March 2020.
Later, the rules were tweaked to require negative COVID-19 PCR tests prior to and post arrival, followed by a period of mandatory quarantine. Fines were also imposed for flouting rules.
However, Minister LeBlanc said Wednesday that Canadians will now get “more of an idea about what they can expect in the weeks to come.”
“The first phase we’re considering now is aimed at allowing fully vaccinated individuals who are authorized to enter the country to be able to cross the border without having to stay in a government authorized accommodation,” he said.
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“Vaccination is key,” he said. “So are the public health measures and so is the drop in case rate and in the number of hospitalizations.”
“These are indicators that we look at to decide which changes need to be made with the improvement of the situation in Canada,” he added.
Canadian businesses, especially those that depend on tourism, have been lobbying for Ottawa to ease restrictions as more and more people are vaccinated. But Hajdu made it clear that they would take things slow.
Asked about calls from businesses to lift restrictions starting on June 22, Hajdu said, “We do want to be cautious and careful on these next steps to be sure that we are not putting that recovery in jeopardy.”
The decision was lauded by the Canadian Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday, even as the organization called for a “national reopening strategy, including a plan for border measures that includes clear metrics.”
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In a statement emailed to Global News, Canadian Chamber of Commerce President & CEO, Perrin Beatty said that “Canadians are eager to see the finish line for this pandemic.”
“Today’s announcement of changes to eliminate quarantine hotels for fully vaccinated Canadians is a welcome move in the gradual resumption of international mobility, but much work still remains.”
With other countries moving “ahead with their reopening plans, it is critical for Canada to catch up,” Beatty added.
“As the Prime Minister leaves for the G7 meetings, we urge the government to accelerate work on digital vaccine certification to support safe international mobility.”
More to come…
–With files from Reuters
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