Fully vaccinated Canadian travellers will no longer need to spend 14 days in quarantine upon arriving home, the federal government now says.  The news follows intense pressure from a host of tourism and business lobbies, and more importantly, recent recommendations from the government’s own Expert Advisory Panel on COVID-19.  While an exact date has not been set, the government is working to a “ballpark” early July implementation.

The new measure will apply to fully vaccinated Canadian citizens and permanent residents who have received shots at least 14 days before entering the country and subsequently also pass a COVID-19 test upon arrival.  The travellers will be able to skip a stay in a government-approved quarantine hotel for three days but will still have to stay in isolation until their test comes back negative.

Currently, air travellers are required to spend three days in quarantine at a hotel at their expense on arrival and then complete their two weeks of self-isolation at their destination.

There was no indication of how travellers will demonstrate their vaccination status. It was also not clear if unvaccinated arrivals would have to continue with the hotel quarantine regimen.

As for a start date, Health Minister Patty Hajdu said, “We’ll be watching carefully here in Canada and around the world as cases change and as vaccinations rates rise.  These metrics are very important factors.”

The news comes as vaccination rates in Canada rise rapidly, including many Canadians at last receiving second doses, thus indicating fully vaccinated status.

The government also said seven million doses of Moderna were slated to arrive this month, with initial shipments starting next week, adding to an already increased supply of Pfizer in June.

Procurement Minister Anita Anand said Canada should have enough vaccine delivered for 80% percent of eligible Canadians to be fully vaccinated by the end of July.

Currently, close to 70% of people in Canada have received a first vaccine dose, helping drive case counts lower.

Previously, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had suggested that 75% first-dose coverage and 20% of Canadians completing second doses would be a likely target for the government before it would consider easing border restrictions – a metric repeated yesterday by chief medical officer Dr. Theresa Tam.

Tam reported that Canada’s the seven-day average for new cases had fallen below 1,800 for the first time since the fall. Similarly, daily hospitalizations have fallen by about half and deaths have declined by about 40%.

However, she also warned those who have received only one dose of COVID-19 vaccine to remain wary, especially with circulation of the Delta variant, noting, “One dose of protection is not enough.”

Trudeau has also stated that the federal government would be working with the provinces to facilitate the matter – a tricky matter, with some provinces, like Ontario, professing to want even tighter controls.

Industry reaction

Meanwhile, industry groups such as the Canadian Travel & Tourism Roundtable and the National Airlines Council of Canada (NACC), were quick to “acknowledge” the government announcement, but equally quick to claim that more needs to be done – and fast.

NACC, which represents the country’s largest international carriers (Air Canada, Air Transat, Jazz Aviation, and WestJet), said the country still “desperately needs a clear restart plan for international travel” with president and CEO Mike McNaney stating, “Easing quarantine restrictions for fully vaccinated Canadians is an initial step in the right direction for the safe restart of our economy, but it falls far short of the recommendations provided by Health Canada’s Expert Advisory Panel report released on May 27.”

The Canadian Travel & Tourism Roundtable, a cross-Canadian coalition of leaders in the tourism and travel sector – including representatives from airports, airlines, hotels, and chambers of commerce across the country (including NACC), had similar concerns, additionally noting that the federal government has yet to publish a comprehensive reopening plan for international and domestic travel, particularly around fully vaccinated foreign nationals visiting Canada.

The Roundtable further urged Prime Minister Trudeau and Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland to use their visit to the G7 Summit in Cornwall, England this weekend “as a platform to announce a comprehensive reopening strategy that will bring Canada in line with most of the other G7 countries rather than a series of piecemeal announcements.”

While, like NACC, the Roundtable called the government’s announcement “a step in the right direction,” TIAC president and CEO Beth Potter added: “With vaccinations rising and case numbers going down, we must pivot to forward-thinking policies, rooted in science, and begin looking at things like reopening the border.  A holistic Canada wide plan is needed to provide certainty to Canadian businesses and employees in the sector.  We are seeing provinces fill in the gaps that have been created by the absence of a federal reopening plan and this will create confusion for travellers.”