BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — Canadian officials announced Monday Canada will reopen its border to vaccinated Americans beginning August 9.
Part of the re-opening plan is based on Canada's increased vaccination rate.
More than half of all Canadians are now fully-vaccinated, outpacing the United States after lagging behind for months.
"In March of 2020, we implemented some of the strictest border measures of the world. We restricted nonessential travel, and we prevented the importation of COVID-19," Canada's Minister of Health, the Honorable Patty Hajdu said.
Canadian government officials are now moving towards a new normal, easing travel restrictions in layers."
Travelers will have to be fully vaccinated with a health Canada authorized vaccine at least 14 days prior to entering the county," Hon. Hajdu said.
Officials say beginning August 9 Canada will allow entry to American citizens and permanent residents who have been fully vaccinated at least 14 days prior to entering Canada for non-essential travel.
Canada's Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness the Honorable Bill Blair said, "They must continue to provide proof of a valid COVID-19 molecular test, as is currently required. They must also be asymptomatic."
"We will shift to a mandatory, randomized testing for fully vaccinated travelers. To only those who have been randomly selected will need to complete a Day 1 test. This shift allows us to focus on unvaccinated travelers, while still keeping track of new variants," Hon. Hajdu said.
Children under 12 will be exempt from quarantining but will have to follow strict public health measures.
"This means they can accompany their parent or guardian out of the house to their destination, so long as they avoid group settings like summer camps, school or child care for 14 days.""
The Government of Canada recognizes that people have been anxiously awaiting a re-opening of the border to the world. We have been fully engaged with our American counterparts given the deep economic and family ties between our two countries. Today's announcement is another big step in our approach to easing border measures which is guided by facts, scientific evidence and the advice of our public health experts.
Beginning September 7, Canada plans to open it borders to any fully vaccinated travelers who have completed the full course of vaccination with a Government of Canada-accepted vaccine at least 14 days prior and who meet specific entry requirements.
Canadians' safety and security always come first. With rising vaccination rates and fewer cases in Canada, we can begin to safely ease border measures. A gradual approach to reopening will allow our health authorities to monitor the COVID-19 situation here and abroad. Canadians have worked hard and sacrificed for each other, and because of that work, we can take these next steps safely.
All travelers will be required to provide a pre-entry COVID-19 molecular test result. Effective August 9, for those who are fully vaccinated, a post-arrival test will not be required unless randomly selected to complete a Day 1 COVID-19 molecular test. There are no changes to the mandatory testing requirements for unvaccinated travelers.
In addition to the pre-entry COVID-19 molecular test requirement officials say all travelers will also be required to:
- To be eligible to enter Canada for discretionary travel on the basis of vaccination status, travelers must use the ArriveCAN app or web portal. Travelers must ensure that mandatory requirements are met prior to departing for Canada. In addition, some provinces and territories may have their own entry restrictions in place. Check and follow both the federal and any provincial or territorial restrictions and requirements before traveling.
- In addition to receiving a full series of a vaccine authorized by the Government of Canada, fully vaccinated travelers must also: provide COVID-19-related information electronically through ArriveCAN (app or web portal) including proof of vaccination prior to arrival in Canada; meet the pre-entry testing requirements; be asymptomatic upon arrival; and have a paper or digital copy of their vaccination documentation in English or French (or certified translation) ready to show a government official on request as evidence.
- A person who submits false information on vaccination status could be liable to a fine of up to $750,000 or six months imprisonment or both, under the Quarantine Act, or prosecution under the Criminal Code for forgery. Violating any quarantine or isolation instructions provided to travelers by a screening officer or quarantine officer when entering Canada is also an offense under the Quarantine Act and could lead to a $5,000 fine for each day of non-compliance or for each offense committed, or more serious penalties, including six months in prison and/or $750,000 in fines. Non-compliant air travelers may also be subject to fines of up to $5,000 for each offense committed under the Aeronautics Act.
- Based on public health advice, Transport Canada has extended the Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) that restricts all direct commercial and private passenger flights to Canada from India for an additional 30 days (i.e. until August 21, 2021, at 23:59 EDT). All direct commercial and private passenger flights to Canada from India are subject to the NOTAM. Cargo-only operations, medical transfers or military flights are not included. Transport Canada has also extended the requirement related to third-country pre-departure COVID-19 tests for travelers to Canada from India via an indirect route. This means that passengers who depart India to Canada via an indirect route will continue to be required to obtain a COVID-19 pre-departure test from a third country other than India before continuing their journey to Canada.
Effective August 9 the three-night government authorized hotel stay requirement will be eliminated for all travelers arriving by air.
Officials say fully vaccinated travelers who meet the requirements will be exempt from quarantine but must still provide a quarantine plan and be prepared to quarantine, in case it is determined at the border that they do not meet the necessary requirements.
Americans under the age of 12 who are not eligible to be vaccinated will be allowed to accompany a fully vaccinated parent, step-parent or legal guardian without having to follow the 14-day quarantine but must follow public health guidelines in the region they are visiting.
Travel restrictions remain in place until August 9, once restrictions are lifted you can find out if you can enter Canada and what your public health obligations are here.
"As a reminder, passengers who depart from India for Canada, via an indirect route, must still obtain a valid COVID-19 test result from a 3rd country before boarding a flight for Canada," Canada's Minister of Transport Canada, the Honorable Omar Alghabra said.
While vaccinated U.S. travelers will be able to visit Canada, it is important to note that as of news time, the U.S. has not announced a reciprocal reopening of its borders.
One Canadian is hoping the U.S. mirrors Canada's policies, soon.
"Americans can walk or can drive across the border and I just wish to God, they would open or announce or say something from the federal level about what the plan is for us," said Tammy Scott. She flew to Buffalo from For Erie, Ontario (by driving to Toronto, flying to Chicago and then to Buffalo).
She did that to meet her boyfriend. He's excited he'll be able to drive to see Scott in Fort Erie, again.
"I'm very excited to hear that and I'll be heading right over there soon as I can," said Merton Labounty.
While business leaders north of the border are eager to get a boost in tourism, it's a different story in Western New York.
"It’s a good first step, but obviously there are some issues," said Dottie Gallagher with the Buffalo Niagara Partnership. With a negative COVID-19 test required to enter Canada, she wonders how many will actually travel there as toursits.
"Day trips are going to be out. So, this does nothing to rebuild that cross-border economy of us going to Niagara-on-the-Lake and having a glass of wine or Canadians coming over here and shopping," said Gallagher.
Congressman Brian Higgins (D - NY26) applauded the Canadian plan and called for the U.S. to do the same in a statement Monday:
We have missed you Canada and we are thrilled at the opportunity to return soon. Today’s announcement by the Canadian government puts policy in line with science. This will allow fully vaccinated Americans separated from their families and property in Canada for a year and a half, to be re-united in three weeks. This measure can’t come soon enough.
It is extremely frustrating that the United States government has failed to reciprocate current family exemptions already allowed by the Canadian government and failed to show a lack of urgency to make any progress on this side of the border toward lifting restrictions. There are logistics to be worked out and questions to be answered certainly, but the U.S. has neglected to give re-opening the Northern Border the serious attention it deserves, and there is no excuse. Failure to coordinate this announcement in a bi-national way will only lead to confusion among travelers. We will continue to push for action by the U.S. government to welcome our Canadian neighbors back.
Senator Chuck Schumer (D - NY) released the following statement Monday:
Canada’s policy change is long overdue and has the potential to be terrific news for thousands who have loved ones, property, or commercial interests across the border. However, as I just stressed directly to Ambassador Hillman, the US and Canadian governments must work in lock-step over the next few weeks to ensure the safest and most-efficient procedures are followed and not unduly burdensome for any and all vaccinated individuals wishing to cross the border in either direction. The United State must now immediately follow suit, make our policy uniform, and further energize NY’s recovery.