BELLINGHAM — While Canadians began preparations to welcome vaccinated Americans back across the border, U.S. officials remained silent on when they might reciprocate.
The Canadian government on Monday announced that beginning Aug. 9 Americans who can prove to border officials that they are fully vaccinated through the ArriveCAN app can begin crossing the border for reasons previously deemed non-essential.
All travelers, regardless of vaccination status, must still have a negative pre-entry COVID-19 molecular test, according to a news release from the Canadian government. Once arriving in Canada, travelers could be randomly selected to take another test under a new border testing surveillance program at airports and land border crossings.
Unvaccinated American children under the age of 12 will be able to accompany a fully vaccinated parent or legal guardian and avoid the 14-day quarantine but must follow health guidelines for the region they are visiting.
“The government of Canada recognizes that people have been anxiously awaiting a re-opening of the border to the world. We have been fully engaged with our American counterparts given the deep economic and family ties between our two countries. Today’s announcement is another big step in our approach to easing border measures which is guided by facts, scientific evidence and the advice of our public health experts,” said Bill Blair, minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, in the news release.
But the U.S. government has been slower to announce its plans, as word had still not been released less than 24 hours before the current border closure was set to expire today.
Under that plan, air travelers, including those from Canada, need to submit a negative COVID-19 test from within 72 hours of their departure or prove they had recovered from COVID within the past 90 days for entry into the U.S. While entry by sea and rail followed that same threshold, entry by land for non-essential purposes has been restricted.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security told The Bellingham Herald Monday that it does not have an announcement to make on whether a reciprocal opening for vaccinated Canadian citizens traveling for non-essential purposes will also be made on Aug. 9 or when a similar move might be made.
“To reduce the spread of COVID-19, the United States extended restrictions on non-essential travel at our land and ferry crossings with Canada and Mexico through July 21, while ensuring access for essential trade and travel,” said Angelo Fernández Hernández, a Department of Homeland Security spokesperson said in an email. “DHS also notes positive developments in recent weeks and is participating with other U.S. agencies in the White House’s expert working groups with Canada and Mexico to identify the conditions under which restrictions may be eased safely and sustainably.”
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki echoed those thoughts during a briefing Monday, saying, “We are continuing to review our travel restrictions. Any decisions about reopening travel will be guided by our public health and medical experts. We take this incredibly seriously. But we look and are guided by our own medical experts and ... I wouldn’t look at it through a reciprocal intention.”
Though trade and other essential travel between the two countries has been allowed, Aug. 9 will mark 506 days since the U.S.-Canada land border was first closed to non-essential travel on March, 21, 2020, because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Earlier this month, Canada relaxed requirements for Canadian citizens and permanent residents returning to the country, abandoning required quarantine periods.
Preparing for reopening
Air Canada will offer up to 220 flights across the U.S. Canada border per day once Canada lifts its travel restrictions for vaccinated Americans, according to a flightglobal.com story Monday. The air carrier says that will include 55 routes to 34 U.S. destinations.
Despite those changes, the National Airlines Council of Canada would like to see the government open the border even more.
”As an industry, we have been calling on the government for months to provide a clear restart plan utilizing science-based measures,” National Airlines Council of Canada Chief Executive Mike McNaney told flightglobal.com. “But as the new measures take effect, we still firmly believe the government must take further steps.”
Airlines and airport staff at Vancouver (B.C.) International Airport are already scrambling to get ready for an anticipated increase in travelers after Aug. 9, according to a story by the Vancouver Sun.
The airport terminal welcomed an estimated 20,000 passengers on July 15, up from the 3,000 to 4,000 the airport was seeing before quarantine requirements were relaxed one day earlier.
”We anticipate that as of Aug. 9, we will see more travelers start to travel again, and we anticipate that level of growth,” Vancouver International Airport Vice President Robyn McVickers told the Sun. He added that the airport “will be ready.”
What if you’re not vaccinated?
To cross the border for non-essential purposes, according to a release from Destination British Columbia, fully vaccinated American travelers must:
- Have received their final vaccine dose at least 14 days before entering Canada.
- Provide proof of vaccination electronically through the ArriveCAN app before leaving for Canada.
- Meet pre-entry testing requirements.
- Have no symptoms of COVID-19.
- Have a paper or digital copy of the vaccination records ready to show upon request.
Those who do not meet the above criteria will not be permitted into the country.
Travelers who submit false vaccination information could face up to a $750,000 fine and six months imprisonment under the Quarantine Act, according to a release from the Canadian government.