“There’s still a lot of work to be done,” says Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino.
As more and more Canadians are receiving vaccines for COVID-19, it may be time to look at what is needed to safely reopen the border for international travel.
Health Minister Patty Hajdu says that Canada is looking to come up with a form of certification that may allow vaccinated Canadians to travel abroad.
In an interview on CBC Radio’s The House, Hajdu said, “Canadians are going to want to travel and just like there have been changes in other kinds of travel requirements over the years as a result of a number of events, Canadians need to be prepared to be able to travel internationally. And we’ll make sure that they are.”
Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino confirmed at a virtual press conference, that the immigration department is involved in discussing the introduction of a vaccine passport.
“Canada needs to be at the international tables… where there are discussions around setting a universal standard for vaccinations to promote the safe travel of those who have been vaccinated,” he said, “This is work that is ongoing. My department is playing a role in that, but we’re also doing it in conjunction with Health Canada. Certainly we are envisioning a post-vaccinated world. In the grand scheme it is a positive thought, but there’s still a lot of work to be done.”
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What are other countries doing?
Many of the discussions in other countries around international travel has focused on the idea of vaccine passports or digital certificates for those who were vaccinated. These documents can be used to prove to a border official of another country that the holder has in fact received the COVID-19 vaccine.
European Union (EU) officials this week proposed to ease restrictions to its 27 member states. The EU is currently only open to a few countries that have low COVID-19 rates. However, the EU commission believes that following this suggestion, that list will expand.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said that it is time to revive tourism in Europe. The proposal will allow entry to those who received vaccines that are approved by the EU, such as the Pfizer vaccine, Moderna, AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson.
The U.K. and Israel are both also looking to adapt some form of a vaccine certificate. The U.K. is looking to use its National Health Service (NHS) mobile app, and Israel are looking to use its Green Pass for international travel. The Green Pass allows Israelis to visit restaurants, gyms, concerts and sporting events.
What about Canada?
In the CBC Radio interview, Hajdu insinuated that Canada may adapt the already functioning ArriveCAN mobile app as a vaccine certification.
All travellers to Canada are required to use the ArriveCAN app. Before they board their flight, or before they arrive by land, travellers are required to submit their travel information, contact details, their quarantine plans, and a COVID-19 self-assessment test.
Travellers to Canada are required to take a COVID-19 test prior to travelling. They must also take a COVID-19 test upon arrival and on the eighth day of their 14-day quarantine. In addition, they must stay at a government-approved hotel for three days upon arrival, while they wait for their test results.
In the ArriveCAN app, travellers must enter a trip reference code. They will get this code when they book their government-approved hotel.
Canada will need to introduce such measures as well as other requirements before it is ready to welcome travellers from abroad.
“What’s needed in terms of lessons learned is the sooner we get to a set of standards in terms of what will reassure the travelling public that it is, in fact, safe to fly by air once again. That seems like it’s far from now, but that is also a reality that the last thing trade, travel, tourism will deal well with is different kinds of forms, requirements, and measures ahead,” said Solomon Wong, President and CEO of Intervistas Consulting Inc., during a virtual conference hosted by the Wilson Center’s Canada Institute.
At the same conference, Melissa Haussman, a political science professor at Carleton University, said that before the Canada-U.S. land border reopens, both nations must have reached a certain vaccine threshold where the countries are satisfied with each other’s efforts. At this point, discussions on reopening the border may begin.
When will Canada ease or lift travel restrictions?
Canada currently has travel restrictions in place for travellers of all countries including the U.S. until May 21, 2021. However, these restrictions are expected to be extended beyond that date. Travellers to Canada must abide by additional measures such as COVID-19 testing requirements as well as a three-day hotel quarantine period as part of the 14-day quarantine requirement.
Global Affairs Canada (GAC) maintain that Canada will ease restrictions in due course.
“The Government of Canada continues to take an evidence-based, cautious and gradual approach to easing travel restrictions for foreign nationals and travel advisories for Canadians,” GAC said to CIC News in an email. “At this time, there are no specific plans to change Canada’s travel advice and advisories and we will continue to update our advice as the situation evolves.”