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

(File photo from The Canadian Press)
Red Deer down to 66 active COVID-19 cases

Red Deer has lowest number of active cases since last November

Orange shirts, shoes, flowers and messages are displayed on the steps outside the legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Tuesday, June 8, 2021 following a ceremony hosted by the Songhees and Esquimalt First Nations in honour of the 215 residential school children whose remains have been discovered buried near the facility in Kamloops, B.C. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Alberta city cancels Canada Day fireworks at site of former residential school

City of St. Albert says that the are where the display was planned, is the site of the former Youville Residential School

FILE – Perry Bellegarde, National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, takes part in an event on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, July 7, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Indigenous Peoples Day must be a ‘call to action’, says Assembly of First Nations chief

Discovery of children at Kamloops residential school site must lead to change, Perry Bellegarde says

The Government of Alberta identified 115 new COVID-19 cases Sunday, bringing the provincial total to 3,089.
(Black Press file photo)
Alberta reports 100 new cases of COVID-19

The Central zone sits at 218 active cases

The Government of Alberta identified 115 new COVID-19 cases Sunday, bringing the provincial total to 3,089.
(Black Press file photo)
Red Deer drops to 71 active cases of COVID-19

Province adds 127 new cases of the virus

The border crossing into the United States is seen during the COVID-19 pandemic in Lacolle, Que. on February 12, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
VIDEO: Border quarantine to soon lift for fully vaccinated Canadians

Eligible travellers must still take multiple COVID-19 tests

Fans watch the warm-up before Game 6 between the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Montreal Canadiens in NHL playoff hockey action Saturday, May 29, 2021 in Montreal. Quebec’s easing of COVID-19 restrictions will allow 2,500 fans to attend the game for the first time in fourteen months. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Two-thirds of Canadians say governments shouldn’t lift all COVID-19 restrictions

Poll reports Canadians who gained pandemic weight say they have gained 16 pounds on average

Paul Bernardo is shown in this courtroom sketch during Ontario court proceedings via video link in Napanee, Ont., on October 5, 2018. Teen killer and serial rapist Paul Bernardo is set for a parole hearing today. The designated dangerous offender, has been eligible for full parole for more than three years. Bernardo’s horrific crimes in the 1980s and early 1990s include for kidnapping, torturing and killing Kristen French and Leslie Mahaffy near St. Catharines, Ont. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Greg Banning
Killer rapist Paul Bernardo faces parole hearing today; victim families opposed

Designated dangerous offender has been eligible for full parole for more than three years.

People look over the damage after a tornado touched down in Mascouche, Que., north of Montreal, Monday, June 21, 2021. Dozens of homes were damaged and one death has been confirmed. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
One dead and extensive damage as tornado hits Mascouche, Que., north of Montreal

Damage reported in several parts of the city, and emergency teams dispatched to sectors hardest hit

FILE - In this Nov. 29, 2020, file photo, Las Vegas Raiders defensive end Carl Nassib leaves the field after an NFL football game against the Atlanta Falcons in Atlanta. Nassib on Monday, June 21, 2021, became the first active NFL player to come out as gay. Nassib announced the news on Instagram, saying he was not doing it for the attention but because “I just think that representation and visibility are so important.” (AP Photo/John Bazemore, File)
Nassib becomes first active NFL player to come out as gay

More than a dozen NFL players have come out as gay after their careers were over

A pair of Alberta residents were arrested after police responded to a report of a woman who had allegedly been assaulted and confined against her will on June 20, 2021. (File photo)
Salmon Arm RCMP arrest 2 Albertans suspected in alleged assault, unlawful confinement

Firearms, stolen items seized including NHL hockey cards believed to be worth thousands

A man makes his way past signage to a mass COVID-19 vaccination centre at the University of Toronto’s Mississauga campus during the COVID-19 pandemic in Mississauga, Ont., on Monday, May 17, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Canadians encouraged to see mRNA shots as interchangeable as more 2nd doses open up

Doctors urge people not to hesitate if offered Moderna after getting Pfizer for their first shot

Chief of Defence Staff Jonathan Vance sits in the front row during a news conference in Ottawa on June 26, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Defence committee rises without report on Vance allegations

Committee had been investigating the government’s handling of complaints against former defence chief

Tl’etinqox-lead ceremony at the site of the former St. Joseph’s Mission in Williams Lake, B.C., June 18, 2021. (Angie Mindus photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
‘We are all one people’: Honouring residential school victims and survivors

Love, support and curiousity: Canadians urged to learn about residential schools and their impact

Most Read