Canada set to relax quarantine rules for vaccinated travelers

In this file photo, Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks during a news conference on Parliament Hill August 18, 2020 in Ottawa, Canada. (Dave Chan/AFP via Getty Images/TNS)
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Kait Bolongaro Bloomberg News (TNS)

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is preparing to ease Canada’s border restrictions for travelers who have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to people familiar with the discussions.

The government is crafting plans to loosen the current 14-day isolation period for border-crossers who’ve had two vaccine doses, said the people, speaking on the condition they not be identified. Travelers entering Canada would still be tested for the virus and may be required to quarantine for a shorter period.

The plan is expected be announced within days, though the timing could shift, according to the people. It isn’t clear when the changes would be implemented or whether Canada will open up its borders to non- U.S. travelers at the same time.

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Pressure has been growing on the Canadian and U.S. governments to relax restrictions that have been in place since March of last year, dramatically reducing land and air traffic between the two countries. A pact that limits non-essential travel is due for renewal June 21.

Stakeholders and government officials say there’s a sense of urgency now, given that it may be the last opportunity to open up the border in time for the summer season. An extension of the measures for another month would be a huge blow for the tourism sector, restricting movement for the July 1 national holiday in Canada and the July 4 weekend in the U.S.

“Businesses need time to plan,” Mark Agnew, a vice president at the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, said by phone. “Tell us what the road map and the plan and the metrics are.”

The prime minister’s office didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Trudeau has mentioned a 75% vaccination rate as a key threshold when asked about potentially reopening the border. More than 60% of Canadians have received a first dose with about 8% fully vaccinated, according to data tracked by the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. In the U.S., 51.6% have had their first shot and 42.1% have had two, according to the Bloomberg Vaccine Tracker. Active cases in both countries have plunged.

A Canadian government advisory panel last month recommended that fully vaccinated travelers be exempt from quarantine and that a three-day “hotel quarantine” for airline passengers be scrapped.

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