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Bill Blair, federal Minister of Public Safety

Canada loosens travel restrictions for those fully vaccinated

Monday, June 21, 2021 @ 4:02 PM | By Terry Davidson

Fully vaccinated travellers able to enter Canada as citizens or permanent residents will soon be able to do so without having to self-isolate, quarantine at a hotel or take a COVID-19 test on the eighth day after arriving.

On July 5, the federal government will begin the rollout this first phase of its loosening of tight border restrictions put in place when the pandemic hit Canada in March 2020.

The new exemptions will apply to travellers eligible to enter, provided they were tested for the virus at least 14 days prior to departing for Canada and that they uploaded those results through a government website or via the ArriveCAN software app. 

Fully vaccinated travellers entering by land will no longer have to go through a 14-day period of self-isolation at home, and those arriving by air will no longer be subject to the controversial requirement that they pay for a stay at a government-designated hotel while they await their test results.  

All fully vaccinated travellers will also be exempt from having to take a COVID-19 test on the eighth day after arriving in Canada.

According to a federal government backgrounder document, fully vaccinated people are considered to be those who have received the “full series” of shots from vaccines approved by Health Canada — those currently being Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca or Johnson & Johnson.

An accompanying news release states that travellers “can receive their vaccine in any country, and must provide documentation supporting their vaccination in English, French or with a certified translation.”

But during a June 21 technical briefing with government officials, it was stressed that fully vaccinated travellers will still have to meet certain conditions: They must still have taken a COVID-19 test within 72 hours prior to leaving for Canada, must pre-register for another test upon arrival and must have uploaded upload their proof of full vaccination.  

They must also present a quarantine plan should they test positive for the virus, present a 14-day travel history, go through required questioning and be asymptomatic.

The pre- and upon-arrival testing will still be required in order to monitor rates of positive results at the border, said Health Minister Patty Hajdu during a press conference held after the technical briefing. 

 Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Minister Bill Blair

Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Minister Bill Blair

“We are continuing these testing requirements to allow public health experts to continue to monitor positivity rates at the border and monitor for variants of concern,” said Hajdu. “Having this information will allow public health experts to recommend further adjustments to border measures quickly, if needed.”

During questions from reporters, Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Minister Bill Blair was asked about how uploaded vaccination documents will be verified as authentic, particularly when it comes to vaccinations done in other countries.

Blair pointed to the ArriveCAN app, as well as the requirement that arrivals carry proof of vaccination with them.  

“The ArriveCAN app is capable of receiving documentation from a number of jurisdictions — not just Canadian jurisdictions. And the application, itself, can verify the validity of the documentation that has been submitted. But we’re also requiring travellers to retain a copy of their vaccination documents — the originals — or a certified translation for verification by border services officers, and they have to carry for 14 days after their arrival in Canada.”      

However, children travelling with fully vaccinated parents will still have to quarantine at home for the 14 days.

Hajdu acknowledged this could be challenging for families, considering that the parents would not have to quarantine.

“Undoubtedly, this will be challenging for families who want to travel,” she said. “At this time, the research and science … indicates that children can get sick with COVID-19 and they can transmit COVID-19, and because vaccines are not authorized for use in children under 12, unfortunately, most children will not be vaccinated. So, the advice from … experts is that to protect Canadians from contact with an imported case of COVID-19, that children under 12 do have to quarantine for the full 14 days … at home.”

Hajdu noted that kids coming into Canada by air will not have to go through the mandatory hotel quarantine if their parents are among those who have been fully vaccinated.

As for travellers not fully vaccinated, nothing changes. Current restrictions, testing requirements and mandatory self-isolation still apply. Foreign nationals not eligible to enter Canada will continue to be turned away, whether they are fully vaccinated or not.

All of this comes days after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that the current closure of the Canada-U.S. border to non-essential travel will be extended to July 21 and that Canada would have to meet vaccine targets of 75 per cent of the population having received a first dose and 20 per cent a second before that changes.

Canada will also be lifting entrance restrictions for foreign nationals who have been approved for permanent residence.

As of June 21, any foreign national holding a valid Confirmation of Permanent Residence (COPR) may travel to Canada. There are reportedly 23,000 holders of COPRs who have not been able to travel to Canada since March 2020, when Canada enacted its border restrictions.

According to a backgrounder document, foreign nationals with COPRs issued on or before March 18, 2020 were exempt from the travel restrictions.

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