Travel restrictions to be relaxed for vaccinated Canadians

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Canadians and permanent residents fully vaccinated against Covid-19 will no longer have to quarantine upon their return from abroad starting July 5, officials announced Monday.

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From 11:59 pm (0359 GMT) on that day, they will also face reduced testing requirements in this first phase of lifting public health restrictions for travelers.

“We’ll come back to Canadians on next steps,” Health Minister Patty Hajdu told a news conference, acknowledging growing pressure to fully reopen the border.

“We can see the finish line,” she said. “Let’s finish strong and let’s make sure that we protect our gains.”

Ottawa said in a statement it “continues to strongly advise Canadians to avoid non-essential travel worldwide,” citing the risk of importing the novel coronavirus and its variants.

Fully vaccinated or not, foreign nationals including Americans are still prohibited from entering the country for discretionary travel.

And Canadians who can show proof of having received two doses of an approved vaccine -- Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca or Johnson & Johnson -- at least 14 days prior to arrival must still get pre- and on-arrival tests, be asymptomatic, and have a suitable quarantine plan.

They will, however, not be required to stay for up to three days at a government authorized hotel at their own expense while they await their on-arrival test result, nor have to test again after eight days.

Canada closed its land border with the US and international airports to all non-essential travel at the onset of the pandemic last year, and has renewed those measures monthly. The latest order is scheduled to lapse on July 21.

A suspension of all flights from India, introduced in April after increased Covid-19 cases were detected in travelers arriving from the country, has also been extended another month. But Pakistan has been removed from that ban.

Pressure has been mounting from airlines and tourism operators, as well as lawmakers in Washington, to ease border restrictions.

Public health officials, Hajdu said, are monitoring the spread of pandemic. She warned that “as Covid rages out of control in other countries, it (still) presents a clear and present danger to all countries.”

Public Safety Minister Bill Blair added: “We recognize that people are anxiously awaiting to reopen the border and, as Canada reaches high levels of vaccination coverage and the Covid-19 severity trends continue to decline, the risks associated with international travel will decrease.”

As of Monday, 25 million Canadians or 66 percent of the population has received at least one vaccine dose, while seven million are now fully vaccinated.

New infections are also trending downward from an April peak.

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