Blair took to Twitter to make the announcement, saying “in coordination with the U.S., we are extending restrictions on non-essential international travel and with the United States until July 21st, 2021.”
In his statement, Blair added that “the government is planning measures for fully vaccinated Canadians, permanent residents, and others who are currently permitted to enter Canada.”
He said further details will come on June 21.
The announcement comes a day after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and premiers met to discuss the possibility of opening the land border between Canada and the U.S., which has been closed for non-essential travel since March 2020.
The ban, which does not cover trade or travel by air, has been rolled over several times. The current restrictions were to expire on June 21.
As vaccines ramp up and COVID-19 numbers decline throughout the country, there has been pressure from provincial premiers to loosen border restrictions.
Trudeau addressed this on Friday at a press conference, acknowledging the ongoing border closure “is frustrating.”
He explained that although fully vaccinated Canadians wanting to travel may be protected against hospitalizations, “it does not protect the community around you from catching COVID-19 from you.”
“You are still returning to a country where we haven’t yet reached a high enough threshold of second dose vaccination,” Trudeau said. “We are getting there, but that’s why we are looking at a phased approach to easing border restrictions.”
Trudeau said it would take 75 per cent of Canadians getting a first dose and 20 per cent receiving a second before rules can be loosened.
The decision garnered immediate criticism from some American lawmakers, including the two Congressmen who co-chair the Canada-U.S. Interparliamentary Group.
Western New York Democrat Brian Higgins and Michigan Republican Bill Huizenga decried the lack of transparency around the border talks as a disservice to residents on both sides of the border to see loved ones and renew business ties.
“While the arrival of vaccines in record time has been a modern marvel, the inability of the U.S. and Canadian governments to reach an agreement on alleviating border restrictions or aligning additional essential traveler classes is simply unacceptable,” said the statement.
Quebec Premier Francois Legault said on Friday that the Canadian government is looking at a plan to reopen the border to people who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
Legault, who had a telephone meeting with Trudeau and the other premiers on Thursday, told reporters it could happen when current border restrictions expire on July 21.
Trudeau previously said when border restrictions do start lifting, there may be a need for proof of vaccination.
He gave more details about this at the press conference, saying the federal government is working on “two tracks” in terms of proof of vaccinations for Canadians who want to travel.
The initial phase, he said, will use the ArriveCan app, an app that allows travellers to digitally provide contact and quarantine information.
“(The) initial phase will be to have people upload image of proof of vaccination so border agents can verify on their return to Canada,” Trudeau said, adding this details about this will be available in the coming weeks.
Trudeau said the feds are also working with provinces to “establish a national certification of vaccination standard,” which could be ready in the fall.
— With files from the Canadian Press