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U.S.-Canadian border could open as soon as mid-August

U.S.-Canadian border could open as soon as mid-August

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Thursday that fully vaccinated U.S. travelers could be allowed to cross the Canadian border as early as mid-August.

On July 15, the prime minister’s office released a summary of Trudeau’s 33rd call with Canadian premiers regarding the country’s COVID-19 response. In it, Trudeau is quoted as saying, “If our current positive path of vaccination rate and public health conditions continue, Canada would be in a position to welcome fully vaccinated travelers from all countries by early September.” According to the summary, Trudeau noted the ongoing discussions with the U.S. on reopening plans and indicated that “we could expect to start allowing fully vaccinated U.S. citizens and permanent residents into Canada as of mid-August for non-essential travel.”

Canadian first ministers expressed their support of reopening plans and agreed on the importance of ensuring clarity and predictability as initial steps are taken. The prime minister indicated that ministers would share more details on the plans early next week. The premiers also discussed the importance of a proof of vaccination credential and prioritizing work to implement a system that would enable Canadians to travel internationally with confidence, according to the summary.

In June, Canadian and U.S. governments opted to keep the northern border closed to all non-essential travel, leading to an outcry from Americans and Canadians on both sides of the border.

Hours after the latest border closure extension, Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer spoke with Canadian Ambassador to the U.S. Kirsten Hillman, urging new guidelines for essential travelers — which includes individuals who have been vaccinated who have family, property, educational, commercial or medical interests in Canada. Schumer said that since March 2020, American and Canadian stakeholders on both sides of the border have grown frustrated with “the endless cycle of month-by-month closure extensions and the lack of transparency on which they’re decided.”

New York state in June achieved its goal of at least 70 percent of all residents receiving one vaccine, and the European Union declared Americans as safe to travel to and from as tourists. The U.S. also has sent 1 million doses of the Moderna vaccine to Canada, further enabling its northern neighbor to up its own vaccination percentage.

“Once I heard the border closure would be extended yet again for another long 30 days, I immediately called the Canadian ambassador to see what we can do, on both sides, to finally reopen the border and truly get Upstate New York on the road to recovery,” Schumer said in a statement last week. “I explained to Ambassador Hillman how mindboggling it is that many New Yorkers are free to travel to Europe now, but even those fully vaccinated can’t even drive a few miles north to Canada to their homes, businesses, stores, families and properties. I urged her to coordinate with me and other U.S. officials ASAP to come up with a plan – based on science, data and common sense – that will allow for safe and steady border travel and reunite families and friends and jumpstart New York’s local economies. I won’t rest until the northern border is safely and effectively opened for all vaccinated New Yorkers.”

Trudeau in June said that as of 11:59 p.m. on July 5, there would be some exemptions for Canadians re-entering the country, who also meet specific conditions for fully vaccinated travelers. But the list of requirements to re-enter the country is lengthy and may discourage Canadian travelers from visiting the U.S.

Those requirements include:
• Pre-registration for a COVID-19 test upon arrival at the border;
• Within 72 hours prior to arrival at the border, have a negative COVID-19 test;
• Document vaccination history, 14-day travel plan and contact and travel information on ArriveCAN website;
• At the border, provide vaccination documentation, as well as receipt from ArriveCan;
• Receive COVID-19 test at the border, unless tests are unavailable, in which case individuals will be provided with a home test they must use and submit when they arrive at their destination.

If each of the requirements is met, and the individual does not test positive, he or she will be exempt from the mandatory 14-day quarantine and hotel stay previously required.

Both sides of the Rainbow Bridge at Niagara Falls were full of protests in the days leading up to the announcement and afterward. Advocates for the border opening, many of whom have loved ones they have not seen in more than a year, were able to cross to the halfway point of the bridge but were not allowed to go any further.

Officials who are watching the border situation closely have said that it is possible that travel may resume when the July 21 deadline arrives. Trudeau had previously said he would not open the border until at least 75 percent of Canadians were vaccinated. In Thursday’s summary, the prime minister noted that Canada continues to lead G20 countries in vaccination rates with roughly 80 percent of eligible Canadians vaccinated with their first dose and more than 50 percent of eligible Canadians fully vaccinated.

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