OTTAWA—Canada could start allowing Americans into the country for recreational or tourist activities starting in mid-August, Prime Minister
office said late Thursday.
The reopening date is conditional on Canada’s vaccination rollout maintaining its current accelerated pace and new, confirmed Covid-19 cases remaining at some of the lowest levels in the developed world, according to a statement that summarized a teleconference between Mr. Trudeau and the country’s provincial and territorial leaders.
Mr. Trudeau told the premiers that Canadian and U.S. officials are in talks about reopening their 5,500-mile land border to tourists and that Canada could be in a position to start allowing fully vaccinated U.S. citizens and U.S. permanent residents into Canada as of mid-August for nonessential travel, according to the statement.
“Canada would be in a position to welcome fully vaccinated travellers from all countries by early September,” the statement said.
This marks the first time Canada has identified a time frame for lifting border restrictions. Business groups in Canada, border-city mayors and some frequent cross-border travelers say they have grown impatient with what they perceive to be a go-slow approach from the Canadian government, despite some meaningful progress in the country’s fight against Covid-19.
U.S. lawmakers in Congress, among them Senate Majority Leader
(D., N.Y.), have either pressed Canadian officials to reconsider their border measures, or have criticized Canada’s resistance to reopening the border, given the close economic and social ties between the two North American countries. And this week, France’s ambassador to Canada said Canada should allow fully vaccinated French citizens into the country.
Last month, both the U.S. and Canada agreed to extend a ban on nonessential crossings at their shared land border for a 30-day period, until July 21. The countries have agreed to extend the prohibition each month for an additional 30 days.
Earlier Thursday, at a press event in Montreal, Mr. Trudeau said his government would unveil next steps on border reopening in the coming week. Previously, Mr. Trudeau had warned about any push to reopen the country’s borders too quickly, especially as cases rise elsewhere in the world because of the Delta variant.
“We all love to accelerate the processes, but we are going to be grounded in what is safe, grounded in science, because it would be catastrophic and heartbreaking to go back into lockdown as some countries are now looking at given surges in the Delta variant,” Mr. Trudeau said this week, when pressed about what will happen when the current ban on U.S.-Canada tourist travel ends on July 21.
After a slow start, Canada’s Covid-19 vaccination rollout has moved into a high gear, and the country now leads the developed world in terms of the share of the population partially vaccinated, with 70% having received one dose, according to University of Oxford’s Our World in Data. Some 46% of the population is fully vaccinated, compared with 48% in the U.S., according to the data.
Mr. Trudeau and other public-health officials have said they want the share of Canadians fully vaccinated against Covid-19 to reach 75% before border restrictions are lifted.
Canada’s seven-day average of new, confirmed Covid-19 cases has dropped by nearly 95% from a mid-April peak reached during a third wave of transmission. Measured on a per-capita basis, only Germany has a lower seven-day average than Canada among major developed-world economies.
Mark Agnew, vice president of policy at the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, the country’s largest business group, said the plan for a mid-August reopening of the U.S. border marked a welcome development for businesses that get most of their sales in the summer.
The U.S. Travel Association has estimated that the American economy loses $1.5 billion for each month that travel between the U.S. and Canada remains at a standstill.
Write to Paul Vieira at [email protected]
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