Canada and the United States have renewed Covid-related travel restrictions at the shared border. This has been happening for 15 months.
There are indications that July 21 could be different
Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada, told reporters outside his Rideau Cottage residence that the current situation was encouraging. The number of cases will decrease if we maintain the momentum, if you’re cautious, and if everyone gets vaccinated, it will. This means that we can move on with the reopening of the clinics carefully.
New public health data that was released later in the day showed a number positive steps. Canadian officials in public health highlighted the still-increasing Covid-19 vaccination rates and plunging hospital case counts. They also expressed optimism that Canada is positioned to avoid a strong outbreak of the more contagious Delta variant.
A quick background:In March 2020, Canada and the U.S. closed land crossings for non-essential travel.Trudeau has been criticized for his cautious approach in removing the restrictions.
U.S. legislators in border districts, Trudeau’s Liberal caucus members, business leaders from both countries, and families that have been separated for over a year from their loved ones are all critics.
Many people had placed their hopes on June 21, as Canada would begin to relax its measures for international travellers who have been fully vaccinated, including Americans.
These are just four reasons to circle the date.
1. The key indicators point in the right direction.
Trudeau’s government indicated that it will not make any border adjustments until at minimum 75 percent of Canada is fully vaccinated.
Canada’s chief medical officer Theresa Tam said that Friday, an estimated 76% of eligible adults aged 12 and over had received at least one dose. Only 26% were fully vaccinated.
POLITICO is told by a senior government official that rollout is moving so fast that the target of 75 percent is possible in just a few weeks.
The government stated that, beyond the coverage of vaccinations, decisions regarding reopening the border will be made based on case counts, hospitalization rates, variants, and Covid situations elsewhere in the world.
2. There have been hints from the top.
Trudeau said earlier this week that the gradual border reopening will take place in the coming weeks, not months. He did stress that nothing was guaranteed given Covid’s uncertainty.
Earlier this week, senior Trudeau cabinet minister Dominic LeBlanc made a point of bringing up the July 21 expiry date. “Obviously, as we approach that date, in three or four weeks, we’ll be looking to see what is … a prudent approach to have in place after that,” LeBlanc told reporters.
3. The first phase of reopening creates time to fine-tune for wider opening.
The softened border measures for Canadians coming home take effect right before midnight on July 5.
Weeks ahead of July 21, the date would give border and public health authorities time to prepare for increased border traffic.
For example, they will be able to fine-tune traveler processing protocols and assess Covid-19 testing requirements at entry ports. A key to Canada’s border testing program is that it will be able to detect the arrival of any variants of concern.
4. Provinces are coming around.
A few weeks ago, Ontario Premier Doug Ford was slamming the Trudeau government for not doing enough to tighten the border as his province struggled with the third wave.
But more recently Ford has eased Covid-19 restrictions, including a suite of changes such as reopening Ontario’s borders to neighboring provinces.
Quebec Premier François Legault does not oppose lifting restrictions at the border as long as it’s done under specific guidelines, his spokesman Ewan Sauves said last week. He said Legault agrees with Trudeau’s insistence that Canada will only admit fully vaccinated foreigners.