For more than a year and a half, Canada kept its doors closed to most non-essential foreign travellers. But that changed Monday morning when the federal government reopened our air, land and sea borders to fully vaccinated Americans.
The government has also loosened several travel restrictions that apply to Canadians returning home from abroad.
Here’s what has changed at the Canadian border.
The Americans are coming
For more than a month, fully vaccinated Canadian travellers have been allowed to skip quarantine when returning home from abroad.
In a continuation of its phased reopening of the border, effective Monday, fully vaccinated Americans can both enter Canada and skip the mandatory 14-day quarantine.
But before eager Americans pack their bags, they should make sure they meet all requirements, said Denis Vinette, vice-president of the Canada Border Services Agency’s COVID-19 border task force.
“People need to know what their obligations are,” he said.
The next step of easing border measures begins on August 9. All travellers eligible to enter Canada must enter travel details and proof of vaccination via <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/ArriveCAN?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#ArriveCAN</a>, if they’re fully vaccinated, before entering Canada. <a href=”https://t.co/nTgbEX6CYD”>https://t.co/nTgbEX6CYD</a> <a href=”https://t.co/WKCZaVuegO”>pic.twitter.com/WKCZaVuegO</a>
First, to be considered fully vaccinated, Americans must have received all required doses of a Health Canada-approved COVID-19 vaccine 14 days prior to entering Canada.
Second, only U.S. citizens and permanent residents residing in and travelling from the United States will be permitted entry.
And, just like Canadian travellers, Americans must submit their travel information — including vaccination documents — using the ArriveCAN app or by registering online within 72 hours before their arrival.
Although they get to skip quarantine, all fully vaccinated travellers entering Canada must still provide proof of a negative COVID-19 molecular test taken within 72 hours of arrival. Air passengers need to take the test within 72 hours of the scheduled departure time of their final direct flight to Canada.
A rapid antigen test will not be accepted.
On Morning Morning, Kim and Paul Zavesky — both fully vaccinated Americans — took their required COVID-19 tests at a clinic in Kalispell, Mont., around 130 kilometres from the British Columbia land border. The tests cost the couple about $300 Cdn each.
Since the start of the Canada-U.S. border closure to non-essential traffic in March 2020, the Zaveskys had been blocked from accessing the only home they currently own — a house in Golden, in southeastern B.C.
As soon as they get their test results, the couple plans to cross into Canada and stay for six months at their much-missed B.C. home.
“I’m so excited. I just started crying when they announced [the new rules]. It was crazy,” said Kim Zavesky. “Once I cross, once I get there, I’ll sit and cry for [another] 20 minutes.”
When travellers enter Canada, they’re required to take another COVID-19 test provided and paid for by the government.
However, starting Monday, fully vaccinated travellers get to skip that second test — unless they’re randomly selected to take it.
“It will be a mandatory random-testing regime,” said Vinette. “This surveillance program will allow us to be able to determine, based on the sampling of a pool size, what are the potential risks … in terms of travellers who’ve been vaccinated who may still be carrying COVID.”
According to the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC), fully vaccinated travellers who test positive or develop COVID-19 symptoms while in Canada must isolate for 10 days. They may leave Canada before their isolation period ends, but only via a private mode of transport (no passenger planes) and only under the guidance of a federal quarantine officer.
Travelling with children
Also starting Monday, Canada will allow unvaccinated children under the age of 12 and travelling with fully vaccinated parents to skip quarantine.
Those children will still be required to take a COVID-19 test upon arrival, plus another one eight days later — unless they’re under the age of five. Both tests will be provided for free by the government.
According to PHAC, children only in Canada for a short trip can leave before their day-eight test is due, as long as they remain asymptomatic and do not test positive during their stay.
WATCH | Canada reopens border to vaccinated Americans:
Parents travelling with unvaccinated children exempt from quarantine are asked to make sure their children take the necessary health precautions, such as avoiding large crowds.
“They can accompany their parent or guardian out of the house to their destination, so long as they avoid group settings like summer camp, school or childcare for 14 days,” federal Health Minister Patty Hajdu said at a news conference last month.
American families travelling with unvaccinated children between the ages of 12 and 17 can still enter Canada, but the children must quarantine for 14 days.
More reopenings in September
As of Monday, fully vaccinated French citizens who reside in Saint-Pierre-et-Miquelon, a French territory near Newfoundland and Labrador, can also enter Canada.
The government plans to reopen Canada’s borders to fully vaccinated travellers from the rest of the world on Sept. 7, but that rule and others may change if Canada gets hit with a serious fourth wave of COVID-19.
Last week, Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam announced that the country’s COVID-19 infections are ticking upward. Vaccinated travellers are considered low risk, she said, but the government will continue to monitor the situation.
“We’re taking a precautionary, phased approach to the border reopening,” Tam said Thursday. “If we see any significant concerns, of course, we can adjust accordingly.”
Canadian travellers should also take note that the U.S. side of the Canada-U.S. land border remains closed to non-essential travellers until at least Aug. 21. However, Canadians have been able to fly to the U.S. since the start of the pandemic.
And all unvaccinated travellers entering Canada by air come Monday will no longer have to spend part of their quarantine in a government-designated hotel. However, they still must quarantine for 14 days upon arrival and take all the required COVID-19 tests.
Finally, some provinces have provincial travel rules and restrictions in place, so travellers should check if they need to meet any local requirements when entering Canada.
Border town exemptions
Another new travel rule-change is that residents of Point Roberts, Wash., Hyder, Alaska, and the Northwest Angle in Minnesota are now allowed to enter neighbouring Canadian border communities, regardless of their vaccination status.
All three of those U.S. communities are cut off from the rest of the United States, because of the placement of the Canada-U.S. border.
For residents like Annelle Norman, who is fully vaccinated and lives in Point Roberts — a nub at the end of the peninsula it shares with Tsawwassen in Metro Vancouver — the pandemic has been devastating.
“It will feel like getting out of jail,” Norman said of the border reopening.
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