Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam listens to a question during a news conference in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam listens to a question during a news conference in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Public health evaluating how, when Canada can allow fully-vaccinated travellers: Tam

‘Between now and moving toward the fall, we would expect some shifts in that policy’

Federal health officials are re-evaluating what has to happen before Canada can allow fully vaccinated people to enter the country or entirely reopen the border to international travellers, says chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam.

Tam was among federal officials from Health Canada and the Canada Border Services Agency appearing at an emergency meeting of the House of Commons health committee Friday, which focused heavily on when the 14-month-long border closure will finally come to an end.

Tam said it’s not just about deciding what fully immunized people can do, it’s also about Canada’s own pandemic situation, including vaccine coverage at home, case rates and hospital capacity, and the fact there is no standard yet for proving that you are, in fact, fully vaccinated.

“We’re very actively examining the policies related to vaccinated travellers or fully vaccinated travel,” she said at the three-hour long committee hearing.

“I do think that Canada is probably on a good trajectory in terms of its epidemiology and our own vaccination coverage and so I do think that between now and moving toward the fall, we would expect some shifts in that policy.”

She said Canada may, however, continue to require travellers to get tested “given the potential for variants that may have escaped vaccines.”

Canada imposed border restrictions in March 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic surged around the world, and added testing and some hotel quarantine requirements this winter.

Travel volumes at land and border crossings have been a mere fraction of normal. Last summer travel was down more than 90 per cent compared to the year before. Since January 1 of this year, about 3.9 million people arrived in Canada by land or air, compared to 94 million people during the same period of 2019.

Liberal MP Marcus Powlowski, whose Thunder Bay-Rainy River riding in northwestern Ontario runs along the United States border, said there are thousands of businesses that rely on American tourists in the summer.

“If there’s no American tourists this year, they’re going to go bankrupt, and a lot of people will lose their livelihood,” he said. “I think it’s a reasonable question: when can we expect to hear when fully vaccinated people, especially Americans, will be allowed into Canada?”

Tam said it was a reasonable question, and that some changes to policies are coming soon.

More than one-third of the U.S. population is now fully vaccinated, and within that country, officials have given fully vaccinated people permission to travel without quarantining.

Canada hasn’t yet lifted restrictions for anyone regardless of vaccination status, and Powlowski said it’s time to do so.

The European Union moved this week to allow fully vaccinated tourists to travel there.

Alberta Conservative MP John Barlow asked for data showing the impact quarantine hotels are having in Canada, which officials could not provide, leaving Barlow frustrated.

“You have no data that tells me that it curbs the spread of the virus any more than quarantining at home, and there’s no plan to end the hotel quarantine,” he said. “So is this just a means to deter travel?”

Iain Stewart, the president of the Public Health Agency of Canada, said PHAC is monitoring infection rates of travellers quite closely. He said the hotel quarantine policy — which the federal government calls “government-approved accommodations” — is not just meant to be a deterrent.

He said the policy is actually there to prevent people arriving in Canada on a plane and then getting on a domestic flight, carrying COVID-19 with them.

“I also mentioned earlier that the number of people arriving at airports is substantially higher and (they are) more likely to be infected than at the land border,” said Stewart. “And those are the motivating factors behind the government-approved accommodations.”

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism? Make a donation here.

Coronavirusvaccines

Just Posted

(double-click to edit)
Daryl Jolly, his wife Kerry Pagdin, their sons Cole Jolly (left) and Graeme Jolly, and their dogs Gracie and Clover. Photo: Submitted
Selkirk College arts chair diagnosed with lung cancer, family launches fund drive

In mid-May, Daryl Jolly developed a chest cough and started feeling fatigued.… Continue reading

TELUS is proposing to construct a 5G tower at Pople Park. Photo: Sheri Regnier
First 5G tower in Trail proposed for placement in popular park

TELUS has a consultation process open until June 28

The Independent Investigations Office of BC is looking into a Castlegar incident. File photo
Police watchdog investigating Castlegar incident

IIO: Woman sustained a reportedly self-inflicted injury

West Kootenay Regional Airport. Photo: Betsy Kline
Central Mountain Air leaving Castlegar airport in July

The airline says market can’t handle two airlines

The Kootenay International Junior Hockey League met for their AGM and announced a number of new initiatives, new awards and changes in their executive committee, as well as the starting date for the 2021-22 season. Paul Rodgers file.
KIJHL announces start dates for 2021-22 season

Season set to begin Oct. 1 with league still following all health guidelines

People watch a car burn during a riot following game 7 of the NHL Stanley Cup final in downtown Vancouver, B.C., in this June 15, 2011 photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Geoff Howe
10 years ago: Where were you during the 2011 Vancouver Stanley Cup Riots?

Smashed-in storefronts, looting, garbage can fires and overturned cars some of the damage remembered today

Port Alberni court house (Alberni Valley News)
Coroners’ inquest into 2016 death of Port Alberni teen rescheduled for June 21

18-year-old Jocelyn George died of heart failure after spending time in jail cell

Children’s shoes and flowers are shown after being placed outside the Ontario legislature in Toronto on Monday, May 31, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
Ontario commits $10 million to investigate burial sites at residential schools

Truth and Reconciliation Commission identified 12 locations of unmarked burial sites in Ontario

Singer-songwriter Jann Arden is pictured with a draft horse. (Canadian Horse Defence Coalition)
Jann Arden backs petition to stop ‘appalling’ live horse export, slaughter

June 14 is the International Day to End Live Export of Animals

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Two hundred and fifteen lights are placed on the lawn outside the Residential School in Kamloops, B.C., Saturday, June, 13, 2021. The remains of 215 children were discovered buried near the former Kamloops Indian Residential School earlier this month. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Days after Kamloops remains discovery, Tk’emlups families gather to unite, move ahead

‘We have to work together because this is going to be setting a precedent for the rest of the country’

In this Saturday, May 29, 2021, file photo, people crowd the Santa Monica Pier in Santa Monica, Calif. California, the first state in America to put in place a coronavirus lockdown, is now turning a page on the pandemic. Most of California’s coronavirus restrictions will disappear Tuesday, June 15, 2021. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes, File)
With COVID tamed, it’s a ‘grand reopening’ in California

No more state rules on social distancing, no more limits on capacity, no more mandatory masks

Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price (31) is scored on by Vegas Golden Knights defenseman Alec Martinez, not pictured, during the second period in Game 1 of an NHL hockey Stanley Cup semifinal playoff series Monday, June 14, 2021, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)
Habs fall 4-1 to Vegas Golden Knights in Game 1 of NHL semifinal series

Match was Montreal’s first game outside of Canada in 2021

Kelowna-Lake Country MLA Norm Letnick, assistant deputy speaker at the B.C. legislature, presides over committee discussions. The legislature is completing its delayed spring session this week, with most MLAs participating by video conference. (Hansard TV)
B.C.’s daily COVID-19 infections dip below 100 over weekend

Only 68 new cases recorded Monday, four additional deaths

Most Read