Canada could start accepting fully vaccinated travellers from the U.S. for non-essential travel by mid-August, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told the country’s premiers Thursday.
If COVID-19 vaccination rates remain on their current trajectory, Trudeau added, then Canada could then see fully vaccinated travellers from around the world begin to arrive by early September.
The comments were included in a readout of Thursday’s First Minister’s call provided by the Prime Minister’s Office.
Trudeau told the premiers that federal ministers will have more to say about reopening plans early next week.
Restrictions on non-essential travel at the Canada-U.S. border are set to expire on July 21. Under the plan revealed by Trudeau, the deadline may be extended one last time by 30 days before fully vaccinated travellers are allowed again.
The travel restrictions have been extended on a monthly basis for more than a year. Canada gradually began easing quarantine requirements July 5, but only for fully vaccinated citizens, permanent residents and other eligible travellers — though it does not apply to recreational travellers.
Trudeau noted to the premiers that nearly 80 per cent of Canadians who are eligible for the COVID-19 vaccines have received at least one dose, while over 50 per cent are fully vaccinated with two doses — a rate that bodes well for further reopening plans.
Canada’s COVID-19 cases have dropped off significantly since the spring as a result, with less than 500 new infections being reported per day on average. Deaths and hospitalizations are also down.
But cases have started to climb in the U.S., thanks to the highly transmissible Delta variant and a significant amount of vaccine resistance among some Americans.
Overall, just over 65 per cent of Americans aged 12 and up have received at least one vaccine dose, while 56.5 per cent are fully vaccinated.
Raywat Deonandan, an epidemiologist at the University of Ottawa, previously told Global News that the uptick in cases down south could have an impact on border restrictions.
The problem with the U.S., he said, is that every state is different when it comes to fighting COVID-19. For example, Mississippi has the lowest vaccination rate with 33.6 per cent of eligible people fully vaccinated, while Vermont has the highest inoculation rate with 67.4 per cent of eligible people fully vaccinated, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“It makes Canadian travel difficult with some states,” Deonandan said. “It is advisable for Canadians going to American states that have grown in the Delta variant in particular, to self-quarantine when they come back, seek out a negative test or to not go in the first place.”
Earlier Thursday, Trudeau acknowledged that Canada will need to reach a certain standard of domestic vaccination before borders with the U.S. can reopen safely.
A new poll from the Angus Reid Institute on Thursday found a sizeable majority of Canadians — 69 per cent of those surveyed — want at least a 75 per cent vaccination rate before the border is reopened. Nearly 40 per cent said that threshold should be even higher.
–With files from Global’s Aaron D’Andrea, Katie Dangerfield and Saba Aziz