Residents will have to wait a while longer to travel internationally or to the United States, as Ottawa plans to wait until more residents are fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
On June 1, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Canada will not rush to reopen the border with the United States, and suggested 75 per cent of Canadians should be fully vaccinated and case counts need to continue to decline before he would be willing to ease restrictions.
“We all want to reopen,” said Trudeau during a news conference in Ottawa. “We all want to go back to travelling to see friends, take vacations, go on trips. But we don’t want to have to close again, tighten up again because there’s another wave.”
Last month, Federal Health Minister Patty Hajdu and the Public Health Agency of Canada released their reopening road-map, COVID-19: Life after vaccination, which says day-to-day restrictions can start to lift once 75 per cent of those eligible for a vaccine receive one dose and 20 per cent have received their second dose by the summer.
“We’re on the right path,” added Trudeau. “But we’ll make our decisions based on the interests of Canadians and not based on what other countries want.”
Canada is reporting that as of May 28, just under 46 per cent of the total population above the age of 12 have received one dose of the vaccine, with about 4.5 per cent being fully vaccinated with two doses.
In the region as of June 3, the Northwestern Health Unit reports that 66 per cent of residents above the age of 12 have received at least their first dose of the vaccine. Fort Frances is leading the way, with 72.7 per cent of residents being vaccinated.
The provincial and federal governments both say they’re aiming to have all willing adults fully immunized by the end of September, with Ontario aiming to immunize youth by the end of August.
The border has been closed to non-essential travel since March, 2020, and it's been extended until June 21 at the earliest.
“It would be important to consider the epidemiology across the border to assess that risk,” notes Medical Officer of Health with the Northwestern Health Unit, Dr. Kit Young Hoon, saying reopening the border does come with significant risk.
“Minnesota’s case rates are coming down and improving, but counties across the border from our catchment area are still relatively high. Even if the border were to reopen, the risk is significantly higher across the border. I would recommend people not travel unless it’s for essential reasons.”
Both Trudeau and Minister Hajdu have said the government will create a form of ‘vaccine certification’ to allow vaccinated Canadians to travel internationally. The USA’s Director of Homeland Security, Alejandro Mayorkas, said America is also considering developing a similar certification.
“I think that could be considered,” added Young Hoon. “At this point, there is a fair bit of movement across the border for essential reasons. People who work on the other side of the border aren’t able to move back and forth. Vaccinations would definitely reduce the risk, particularly if people are immunized with both doses.”
Last month, the Angus Reid Institute polled Canadians about the possibility of a ‘vaccine passport’. Over 75 per cent of respondents agreed that when the border reopens, travellers to Canada should show proof of vaccination before being allowed in.