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Premier John Horgan not pushing to re-open border with U.S., calls for ‘thoughtful plan’

Click to play video: 'COVID-19: B.C. premier says reopening of Canada-U.S. border not a priority' COVID-19: B.C. premier says reopening of Canada-U.S. border not a priority
B.C. Premier John Horgan says he is in no rush to see the Canada-U.S. border reopened. Richard Zussman reports – May 28, 2021

B.C. Premier John Horgan is hoping the border between the United States and Canada will not reopen for recreational travel until late summer or fall.

The B.C. government is under growing pressure from the province’s tourism sector to work towards easing the border restrictions to support the industry.

The border was closed for recreational travel in March 2020 and has remained closed since.

Click to play video: 'Focus BC: One-on-one with Premier John Horgan' Focus BC: One-on-one with Premier John Horgan
Focus BC: One-on-one with Premier John Horgan – May 28, 2021

Currently, anyone entering Canada from another country must produce a negative COVID-19 test and quarantine for 14 days. If a traveler is arriving by air they are legally required to stay three days at a quarantine hotel.

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Horgan told Global News the re-opening of the border was a crucial topic in a conversation Thursday between premiers and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

“I said, ‘Prime minister, I was the first person in the country to tell you to shut the borders. I will not be the first to tell you to open them up instead,'” Horgan said in a wide ranging interview on Focus BC.

“We need to also, in this instance, have a thoughtful plan.”

Horgan pushed in March for the federal government to require people arriving in the country to have a quarantine plan. He did not elaborate on what a plan would look like.

Click to play video: 'Point Roberts proposes pilot project for reopening Canada-U.S. border' Point Roberts proposes pilot project for reopening Canada-U.S. border
Point Roberts proposes pilot project for reopening Canada-U.S. border – May 20, 2021

In 2019, 8.5 million vehicles crossed from the United States into British Columbia.

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One of Horgan’s ongoing concerns about re-opening the border is the vaccination plan in Washington state.

So far, 55.6 per cent of the state’s total population has received one COVID-19 doses and 45 per cent of the total population are fully vaccinated with two doses when required.

But recently the state has plateaued short of what Canadian officials are hoping for when it comes to herd immunity.

“I’ve spoken with the governor of Washington, Jay Inslee, about where they are with their vaccination program. They’ve plateaued a little bit. They had a big uptake at the beginning. They have a lot of second doses, but they’re stuck,” Horgan said.

“They need to go higher before I would be comfortable to open up the border to Washington.”

Click to play video: 'Discussions underway on cross-border vaccine sharing between B.C. and neighbouring U.S. states' Discussions underway on cross-border vaccine sharing between B.C. and neighbouring U.S. states
Discussions underway on cross-border vaccine sharing between B.C. and neighbouring U.S. states – Apr 29, 2021

The decision on opening the border with the United States will be up to the federal government. There is pressure coming from politicians in the United States along the border to open things up to encourage tourism dollars to flow both ways.

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Health Canada has referenced vaccination of 75 per cent of adults as a threshold for herd immunity.

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix is looking at 85 per cent for B.C. to feel comfortable.

When pressed, Horgan would not say how many people should be vaccinated in Canada or the United States before the border should open.

Click to play video: 'B.C. reopening plan details and timeline released' B.C. reopening plan details and timeline released
B.C. reopening plan details and timeline released – May 25, 2021

“I don’t want to speculate on that data at this point in the process. We are at the first step of a four step plan. The borders are critical, critical to our tourism sector. But come the middle of June, British Columbians will be able to travel freely to every corner of this province,” Horgan said.

The pressure to open the border in B.C. is ramping up as COVID-19 cases drop and a path to restarting the province is laid out.

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As early as June 15, British Columbians will be encouraged to travel within B.C. and as early as July 1 they will be encouraged to travel across Canada. There is not timeline or plan for when the borders could be open.

A quarter of all American visitors in Canada visit British Columbia and 60 per cent of the international visitors in B.C. are American.

In 2019, 3.9 million Americans stayed at least one night in Canada.

“Notwithstanding the health concerns, the sooner the better. We need American visitors in our province, we need the international border to open,” Tourism Industry Association of B.C. president Walt Judas said.

“We need things to open to sustain our sector. We cannot rely solely on domestic domestic visitation. It is proven it cannot sustain the sector over the long term.”

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