Canada's borders to reopen to Americans August 9

Border to reopen to fully vaccinated Americans August 9, international travellers September 7

Peace Arch border could get busy again. | Getty Images

The Canadian government will reopen Canada’s borders to fully vaccinated American tourists on August 9 and other international travellers September 7.

Those who are not fully vaccinated, or immunized with a vaccine that is not approved by Health Canada will still be subject to things like quarantines and COVID-19 tests.

Travellers will need to be fully vaccinated with one of four vaccines approved by Health Canada at least 14 days before arrival in Canada, and will be required to provide proof of a COVID-19 test prior to entry. But they will generally not be required to quarantine and will not need to provide a negative COVID-19 test upon arrival.

However, there will be a new border testing surveillance program at airports and land border crossings in which fully vaccinated travellers may need to have post-arrival tests, if they are randomly selected.

Travellers coming to Canada, even fully vaccinated ones, will still have to submit a quarantine plan, and be prepared to quarantine, in the event they do not meet all the conditions for entry.

Canada’s borders have been closed to non-essential travel since March 2020. It has taken a heavy toll on the hospitality and tourism industry on B.C. The impact of a cruise ship ban has hit downtown commercial districts like Gastown particularly hard.

The announcement was made Monday by a small platoon of federal cabinet ministers from ministries of Transport, Health, Immigration, Intergovernmental Affairs, Public Safety and others.

Federal Health Minister Patty Hajdu said 80% of Canadians are vaccinated and 50% fully vaccinated, which is one of the factors in allowing Canada to start welcoming international visitors.

However, tourists from other countries may not be able to travel to Canada unrestricted if they have been immunized with a vaccine that is not approved by Health Canada. Health Canada has approved only four vaccines:Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, AstraZeneca and Janssen (Johnson & Johnson).

"Travellers will have to be fully vaccinated with a Health Canada authorized vaccine at least 14 days prior to entering the country," Hajdu said.

American travellers and Canadians who are permanent residents in the U.S. will need to provide proof of immunization in advance of entering Canada. 

Partially vaccinated and unvaccinated travellers will still need to quarantine for 14 days and have COVID-19 tests upon entering Canada. Otherwise testing requirements for the fully vaccinated will be relaxed somewhat, though will still be required in some cases.

The number of airports allowed to received international passengers will be expanded from four to nine as of August 9. The four additional airports being opened to international discretionary travel are Halifax, Quebec City, Ottawa, Winnipeg and Edmonton.

The reopening of Canada's borders to international travellers on September 7 will allow international students to resume studies in Canada.

Travel to Canada will not be as easy as it was prior to the pandemic. All travellers will need to submit information on immunization status through the ArriveCAN portal prior to being admitted.

Since children under the age of 12 can't be vaccinated, there will still be some restrictions on families coming into Canada with children. While they will not be required to quarantine, children under 12 will not be allowed to participate in group activities for 14 days after arrival in Canada. This includes things like camps, daycares and playgrounds.

As for Canadians wanting to travel to the U.S., Public Safety Minister Bill Blair said his U.S. counterparts have not given any dates yet for when the U.S. will open to Canadian tourists.

The federal government earlier removed requirements that airlines perform pre-departure screening of international travellers coming to Canada. 

"With the public health situation improving, we are also eliminating pre-departure temperature screening for domestic air passengers and passengers departing Canada on international flights, as well as for airport workers," said federal Minister of Transport Omar Alghabra. "And the temperature screening requirements will be fully eliminated as of August 9."

He added some public health measures will remain in place for airline passengers, however, including the wearing of masks at airports and on board all flights.

"And all international passengers, vaccinated or not, must still present a negative COVID-19 test result prior to boarding a flight to Canada."

He added that restrictions on direct commercial and private flights to Canada from India are being extended to August 21, due to the high rates of the delta variant of COVID-19 infections in that country.

"The situation in India is still very serious,"  Alghabra said.

Hajdu said Canada will be monitoring closely how other countries are doing in terms of vaccination rates and increased variant infections, and may have to adjust its guidelines for international travel accordingly.

"We know this virus has thrown us many curve balls internationally and here in Canada," she said. "So all those data points are constantly monitored by the Public Health Agency of Canada."