Canada to ease some restrictions, but U.S./Canada border still closed

Jun 21, 2021, 6:09 PM | Updated: Jun 22, 2021, 9:35 am
Canada border...
It may not be long before Americans are allowed to go to Vancouver and other cities of the Great White North. (Nicole Jennings/KIRO Radio)
(Nicole Jennings/KIRO Radio)

An end to the 16 months of the U.S./Canada border closure may be in sight — Canada announced the first phase of a border reopening Monday morning.

Starting July 5th, travelers with proof of full vaccination can cross the border into Canada without having to do the 14-day quarantine that has been mandatory until now. They will need to test for COVID before and upon arrival in Canada, and will have to show their vaccination status through the ArriveCAN app.

But this does not mean that in early July, vaccinated Americans can head up to Vancouver for some sightseeing — or that vaccinated Canadians can drive down here for a shopping trip, something for which businesses in the Puget Sound, and especially Whatcom County, have been longing for.

Until at least July 21,  the U-S/Canada land border remains closed to non-essential travel from both sides. That means the new regulation only applies to those currently allowed to enter Canada in the first place — Canadian citizens and permanent residents.

Foreign policy expert: Canadian border announcement likely in June

“Travel restrictions for foreign nationals, including U.S. citizens, remain in place until at least July 21st,” said Canadian Minister of Public Safety Bill Blair in a press conference on Monday. “In other words, foreign nationals coming to Canada for non-essential purposes will be turned away at our border.”

The new regulations will make a difference for Canadians returning home by air. While Canadians cannot currently drive into the U.S. without an essential reason, they have been allowed to fly here for non-essential purposes. Until now, that came with the cost of a 14-day quarantine upon return.

Canadian government officials did not elaborate when asked on what future phases of the border reopening might look like, or exactly what metrics would need to be reached to attain those phases. Canadian Minister of Health Patty Hajdu said they would be looking at statistics like case counts, hospitalizations, and ICU capacity, as well as the movement of the Delta variant in Canada and worldwide.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has talked of wanting 75% of the country to have at least one dose before opening back up; as of June 12, more than 73% of Canadians 12 and older had received one dose.

Blair said he hopes to open up to Americans as more Canadians get vaccinated.

“As Canada reaches high levels of vaccination coverage, a phased approach will allow us to ease border measures in step with decreasing risk … with the aim of allowing for non-essential travel of fully-vaccinated foreign nationals in the coming months,” he said.

One local Canadian studies professor believes that that day will be sooner rather than later.

“I would guess that by the end of the summer, we’ve got free flow of Canadians able to come into the U.S., and then still some restrictions on U.S. entry to Canada, but hopefully those restrictions will only be for people who aren’t fully vaccinated,” said Dr. Laurie Trautman, director of Western Washington University’s Border Policy Research Institute.

Trautman correctly predicted on Friday that the Canadian government would be announcing an easing of restrictions for Canadians in the coming days.

“My sense is what Canada wants to do is put this system in place for Canadians first, see how it goes, there will be kinks in the system,” she said. “Once that system has been in place for a little while, I would guess it will be expanded to Americans.”

She also guessed that the latest border closure extension will be the last of its kind we will see — though she noted that even if the border had opened up by now, it would not have made much of a difference to the North Sound’s suffering businesses yet.

“There just are not as many vaccinated Canadians who would’ve been able to take advantage of it anyway, so I don’t think we would’ve had this huge rush of people,” she said.

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Canada to ease some restrictions, but U.S./Canada border still closed