• The Star Staff

Canada says it will reopen US border


By Vjosa Isai


Canada is poised to welcome back fully vaccinated travelers, including Americans, after moret than a year of strict controls at the border.


Beginning Aug. 9, citizens and permanent residents of the United States, who have been fully vaccinated for at least 14 days before travel, will be allowed to enter Canada, federal government officials said earlier this week.


Then, if all goes well, Canada hopes to allow visitors from other countries beginning Sept. 7, a date that could change depending on conditions.


Pressure has been building on both sides of the border to reopen, to boost tourism and allow separated families to reunite (though Canada has made some exceptions for relatives). The two countries have renewed the closure every month since the border closed to nonessential travel on March 21, 2020. Commercial traffic was never halted.


Before the pandemic, Canada was the second most popular foreign destination for Americans, behind Mexico.


Canada is ready to lift border restrictions because it has made rapid progress vaccinating its population after months of delays. It now has higher vaccination rates than the United States, with 50% of its population fully vaccinated, and 75% of residents having received at least one dose, according to its federal public health agency.


Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had indicated that Canada would begin to open its border after it crossed the 75% threshold for residents who are at least partly vaccinated.


Travelers must present Canadian border officials with proof of vaccination. Canada will accept only the COVID vaccines it has approved for its population: those made by Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, AstraZeneca/Covishield, and Janssen, the brand used by Johnson & Johnson in Canada.


In a news conference Monday, Bill Blair, the public safety minister, said he shared Canada’s border plan with his U.S. counterparts last week, but “they’ve not yet made a decision.”


The White House press secretary, Jen Psaki, said in a briefing Monday that the United States would continue travel restrictions.


“Any decisions about reopening travel will be guided by our public health and medical experts. We take this incredibly seriously, but we look and are guided by our own medical experts,” Psaki said. “I wouldn’t look at it through a reciprocal intention.”


Rep. Brian Higgins, a Democrat of western New York, criticized the Biden administration for what he called a “lack of urgency” in lifting restrictions at the border.


Also as of Aug. 9, Canada is dropping its mandatory government-approved-hotel quarantine requirement for air travelers, and removing the quarantine period altogether for eligible, fully vaccinated visitors.


Children under 12, who are not yet eligible for the vaccines, or dependents of fully vaccinated travelers, will also be exempt from a 14-day quarantine. This will allow them to “move around with their parents, but must avoid group settings, such as camps or daycares,” public health officials said in briefing documents.


The highly contagious delta virus variant remains a concern, so some fully vaccinated travelers will be randomly selected to complete a post-arrival test for the virus.


Regardless of vaccination status, all travelers will be required to present a negative test taken within 72 hours before arrival.


Airline passengers have so far been limited to traveling through four international airports in Montreal, Toronto, Calgary and Vancouver. Now, the government is expanding international flights to five additional airports in Halifax, Quebec, Ottawa, Winnipeg and Edmonton.


On Friday the Toronto Blue Jays, a Major League Baseball team, were granted a travel exemption allowing them to return to Canada, after being forced to play across the border throughout the pandemic.


Canada also let National Hockey League teams cross the border for the Stanley Cup playoffs.