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Canada Is Working On A Phased Reopening — But Only For Vaccinated Visitors

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government is working on a phased approach to welcoming international visitors—but all visitors coming into Canada will need to be fully vaccinated.

Earlier today, after delivering the virtual keynote address at the St. John’s Board of Trade Outlook Conference, Trudeau told attendees that travelers would need to be fully vaccinated before coming to Canada. His first priority, he said, is to keep Canadians safe from a fourth wave of Covid-19, which would be “devastating” for the economy and morale, according to CBC Radio, Canada’s public broadcasting system.

Trudeau said that most parts of Canada have a low case count and a high vaccine rate. “And that is going to be reassuring to a lot of people who maybe want to travel but don’t want to be putting their families at risk.”

The prime minister told the conference that he favors a gradual relaxation of border restrictions. “We’re not going to get ahead of ourselves,” he said. “We are looking at how we’re going to start welcoming up tourists in a phased way as the numbers come down in Canada, as the numbers start to come down in the United States and elsewhere around the world.”

A phased reopening was one of the big recommendations from a Canadian government advisory panel report last month, which also proposed that fully vaccinated travelers be exempt from quarantine and that a three-day “hotel quarantine” for airline passengers be discontinued.

Trudeau’s slow-and-careful message is consistent with comments he made last week at a press conference. At that time, he said Canada will not reopen the border with the United States before it’s ready. “We’re on the right path, but we’ll make our decisions based on the interests of Canadians and not based on what other countries want,” he said.

Still, what a difference a week makes. There’s now good reason for travelers to be more optimistic about a June reopening of the U.S.-Canada border.

For several weeks, Trudeau has insisted that border restrictions need to stay in place until at least 75% of Canadians have at least their first shot. Right now, 68% of Canadians have had at least one dose of the vaccine, according to the government’s vaccination dashboard. That is a massive 17% jump in just one week.

If that trajectory continues, Canada will surpass the 75% threshold within a few days. If so, it’s possible that Trudeau’s government will agree to ease some border restrictions later this month. The 5,525-mile border — the longest in the world — has been closed to non-essential travel since March 2020.

The closure has been extended on a month-by-month basis, and the current restrictions expire in two weeks, on June 21.

In a recent Ipsos survey, nearly eight in 10 Canadians (78%) agreed that all travelers entering Canada should be required to have a vaccine passport.

The report from Canada’s Covid-19 advisory panel stressed that the government must be able to verify the vaccination status of travelers. “A system to validate proof of vaccination for arriving travelers should be made available as soon as possible,” wrote the authors.

PLUS: Canada Will Require Using A Vaccine Passport For Entry

Both Trudeau and Canadian Health Minister Patty Hajdu have recently indicated that the government will come up with a form of vaccine certification to allow vaccinated Canadians to travel internationally.

Trudeau told a news conference in May that vaccination certifications were a part of international travel before Covid-19 and are “naturally to be expected when it comes to this pandemic and the coronavirus.”

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