The US-Canadian land border, the world’s longest, and the air border have been closed to non-essential travel since mid-March 2020 because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Pressure had been rising on the government from the ailing tourism sector to ease travel restrictions, but Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his administration did not want to jeopardise progress on the home front in curtailing the spread of Covid-19.
Earlier this month, Canada waived quarantine requirements for its own citizens and permanent residents returning from abroad who are fully vaccinated against Covid-19.
“On August 9, a number of important changes at the border will come into effect, to allow fully vaccinated United States citizens and permanent residents who are currently residing in the United States to enter Canada for non-essential purposes,” Canadian Health Minister Patty Hadju said.
Vaccinated Americans and permanent US residents — and eventually, other foreign travelers — will be required to have had their full course of doses of a vaccine approved by Canadian authorities at least 14 days before arrival, and they will be subject to “testing as required,” her ministry said.
Those travellers should also be asymptomatic on arrival.
The Tourism Industry Association of Canada (TIAC), which had been lobbying for a reopening of the border for months, called the announcement “very welcome news.”
“The tourism economy is ready to welcome visitors back,” the group’s president and CEO Beth Potter said in a statement.
The head of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, Perrin Beatty, called the announcement a “positive step” but cautioned that “the costly and cumbersome procedures that remain for fully vaccinated travellers will discourage short visits, including many business trips.”
For some provinces, such as Quebec, US tourists make up a significant percentage of the total number of visitors. United Airlines said Monday it would add more flights from the US to Toronto and Vancouver from September.
Since February, only the airports in Calgary, Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver have received international flights. From August 9, airports in Edmonton, Halifax, Ottawa, Quebec City and Winnipeg will be authorized to receive such flights.
At the White House, press secretary Jen Psaki said Monday that for the time being, the US government was “continuing to review” its travel restrictions and would follow the guidance of its own medical experts.
Thus far, the border closure had been renewed monthly by mutual agreement between Ottawa and Washington.
According to Canadian government data released Monday, 75 percent of those living in Canada have had at least one dose of coronavirus vaccine. Half are fully vaccinated.
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