The government of Canada welcomed fully vaccinated foreign nationals back to Canadian soil last week as frustrated families on both sides of the Canada-US border urged Congress to find out why the White House isn’t following their lead.
As of midnight Monday night, quarantine requirements were eased for non-essential international travellers who have had a full course of a Health Canada-approved COVID-19 vaccine.
To be eligible, travellers must have allowed at least 14 days to pass since their last vaccine shot and show proof of a negative molecular test for COVID-19 that’s no more than 72 hours old.
They are also required to use the ArriveCAN app or online web portal to upload their vaccination details.
The change marked the latest stage in Canada’s gradual easing of travel restrictions that were first imposed on travellers of all nationalities at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic back in March 2020.
But nearly 18 months later, the US has resisted the mounting pressure to reciprocate, frustrating businesses that depend on incidental cross-border traffic and angering residents desperate to see expatriate friends and family.
Nearly three weeks after fully vaccinated US citizens and permanent residents were allowed back over the border, random COVID-19 surveillance tests found a positivity rate of just 0.19 percent, despite a growing caseload in both countries.
“While cases are currently increasing in Canada, the illness severity and hospitalization rates remain manageable as Canada’s vaccination rates continue to rise,” the Canada Border Services Agency said in a release.
“This data, along with continued adherence to public health measures by Canadians and incoming travellers, means that Canada is better able to prevent outbreaks of infection and can now allow more incoming fully vaccinated travellers without increasing the risk to the health and safety of Canadians.”
Eligible foreign nationals planning to take advantage of the latest Canadian exemption were mainly expected to be arriving by air, making matters easier for border agents.
Canada has approved four COVID-19 vaccines: Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, the Oxford-AstraZeneca shot, also known as Covishield, and the single-dose Johnson & Johnson option.
Travellers from either country who take an indirect route to Canada will be required to produce a recent negative molecular test taken in a third country.
In addition to the land borders with Canada and Mexico, the US has restricted travel from several foreign countries, including China, India, Ireland, Iran, South Africa, Brazil and the 26 European countries without border controls, known as the Schengen group.
The ongoing restrictions have at least made life easier for Canada’s border agents. The inability to cross into the US for short incidental trips has meant fewer people trying to return to Canada than might otherwise be the case.