Canada will open its border to fully vaccinated, asymptomatic U.S. citizens and permanent residents for the first time in 16 months on Aug. 9, and then to vaccinated people across the world a few weeks later.
Inoculated Americans, much like Canadian residents returning home from abroad, will no longer be required to quarantine when entering the country. By Sept. 7, the rule will also apply to all vaccinated travellers entering Canada with doses approved in the country, provided that the domestic epidemiological situation remains favourable.
As the national vaccination rates continue to climb in Canada and the States, many border towns met Monday’s news with enthusiasm. Marg Harding, a city councillor in St. Stephen, N.B., said an uptick in new visitors could go a long way to boost morale in her town of 4,400. Ms. Harding has lived in the Maine-adjacent town for 75 years and served on its council for 13, and said it has still not found its prepandemic vibrancy.
“We’re the gateway … people stop and shop here,” she said, before adding that the opening should breathe life into local restaurants, the Chocolate Museum and the Town Landing Waterfront.
“Any business in town here could benefit.”
She hopes, however, that case numbers stay down in the province, which opened its boundaries to Canadians with at least one dose just last month.
“I’m a bit leery about that,” she said, “but we certainly want to see our American friends again.”
Health Minister Patty Hajdu said the rising vaccination rates and declining COVID-19 cases in Canada are allowing it to progressively loosen border restrictions.
“Canadians have worked hard and sacrificed for each other, and because of that work, we can take these next steps safely,” said Ms. Hajdu, who added that 80 per cent of Canadians now have one dose and 50 per cent are fully vaccinated. In the U.S., 48 per cent of residents have received both their shots.
The Canada-U.S. border, the world’s largest undefended boundary, has been closed to non-essential travellers since March 20, 2020, to curb the spread of COVID-19. It is still unclear when America will lift its restrictions on discretionary travel into the country for Canadians, who still cannot enter the U.S. by land or water, and who must provide a negative viral test within three calendar days of boarding a plane to the States.
Many border measures will ease on Aug. 9. Americans travelling to Canada will have to submit health information through the ArriveCAN app or website before boarding their flight, or before arriving at a land or marine port of entry. They will also be required to have a paper or digital copy of their vaccination documentation in English or French. Only those randomly selected will require a COVID-19 test upon arrival to Canada.
Moreover, fully vaccinated air travellers will no longer have to stay three nights in a government-authorized hotel upon return to the country, and international flights carrying passengers will also be permitted to land in five additional airports: Quebec City, Ottawa, Winnipeg, Halifax and Edmonton. Children under 12, who are only expected to be vaccinated by wintertime in the U.S., will not need to quarantine for 14 days if they are accompanied by a fully vaccinated parent. They will, however, require testing on their first and eighth days in Canada, and will be told to avoid group settings such as summer camps and daycares.
Janice Thomson, president and chief executive officer of Niagara Falls Tourism, said she was thrilled to hear the news, as 50 per cent of spending at the southern Ontario tourism hub usually comes from American tourists.
“The Americans come for longer and spend more money,” she said. “We’re greeting the news with open arms; we’re very thrilled.”
Ms. Thomson expects a hectic month of August once border restrictions lift, as the 50,000-person city’s establishments are still getting used to new capacity ceilings brought on by Ontario entering Step 3 on July 16.
Meanwhile, Caesars Windsor Hotel and Casino in Windsor, Ont., barely a kilometre away from downtown Detroit, does not expect an immediate influx of new customers because only half of Americans are fully vaccinated and thus eligible to cross, said the casino’s manager of public relations and communications, Susanne Tomkins. Yet, Ms. Tomkins said the casino has spaced its slot machines and punctuated its gaming floors with plexiglass and sanitizing stations as they wait for the arrival of their American neighbours, who usually account for 30 per cent of the casino’s business.
In northwestern New Brunswick, Edmundston Mayor Eric Marquis said he hopes the loosened border restrictions will lead to greater attendance at local hockey games in the fall. He said it was common before the pandemic for Maine residents to cross the border in the hundreds, and then drive a few minutes to the arena to cheer on the Edmundston Blizzard, the city’s Junior A club.
“It’s a different activity that they have less of, so it’s popular with them,” he said. “We’re really happy about the announcement. … It’s going to be a benefit for us, that’s clear.”
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