Canada loosens travel restrictions for vaccinated US tourists

Fully vaccinated US citizens and permanent residents can enter Canada without needing to quarantine as of Monday.

Canada says the loosening of travel restrictions is possible amid increased vaccination rates and declining COVID-19 cases [File: Lars Hagberg/Reuters]

American tourists who are fully vaccinated against the coronavirus are now allowed to enter Canada after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government lifted months-long restrictions on non-essential travel into the country.

As of Monday, citizens and permanent residents of the United States who received their second dose of COVID-19 vaccine at least 14 days prior to arrival in Canada will be exempt from quarantine requirements.

Ottawa will also allow fully vaccinated travellers from any country to enter the country without needing to quarantine as of September 7.

The move announced last month ends a 16-month ban on most non-essential travel between the neighbouring countries, which share the world’s longest international land border, due to the pandemic.

The Canadian government said in a statement that the change is possible due to “the advent of increased vaccination rates in Canada, declining COVID-19 cases and reduced pressure on health care capacity”.

It will also allow fully vaccinated travellers from any country to enter Canada without needing to quarantine as of September 7.

Meanwhile, long delays were reported at the Canadian-US border as the change came into effect on Monday.

Government data showed a seven-hour wait time for the Fort Frances, Ontario, and International Falls, Minnesota, crossing, while several crossings in Ontario and New Brunswick – between the states of New York and Maine – had waits of three hours.

Toronto’s Pearson International Airport, Canada’s biggest airport, has also asked travellers to brace for delays.

“A gradual approach to reopening will allow our health authorities to monitor the COVID-19 situation here and abroad. Canadians have worked hard and sacrificed for each other, and because of that work, we can take these next steps safely,” Health Minister Patty Hajdu said in July.

Canada has seen declining coronavirus infection rates, but concerns persist about the highly contagious Delta variant, which is spreading rapidly south of the border.

The US is now averaging more than 100,000 new coronavirus infections per day, as health officials desperately urge people to get jabs.

Experts have described the recent wave of cases, hospitalisations and deaths as an “outbreak of the unvaccinated“, with states with low inoculation rates, such as Florida and Texas, seeing a lion’s share of the uptick.

Nearly 59 percent of people in the US have received at least one vaccine dose, according to data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, while 50.1 percent are considered fully vaccinated.

US President Joe Biden’s administration last month extended the closure of its borders with Canada and Mexico to non-essential travel until at least August 21.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies