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Ottawa eases border rules for fully vaccinated travellers

Fully vaccinated Canadians and permanent residents will no longer have to quarantine when entering Canada, the federal government announced Monday.

As of 11:59 pm. ET on July 5, travellers currently permitted to enter Canada – which includes Canadian citizens, permanent residents and people registered under the Indian Act – who have been fully vaccinated at least two weeks before travelling will be able to do so without having to quarantine. The easing of restrictions marks the first step in the government's plan to reopen its borders.

In order to be considered fully vaccinated, travellers must have received a full series of a vaccine, or a combination of vaccines, accepted by the government. The vaccines currently accepted by Ottawa include Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca and Janssen's Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

Travellers must have a paper or digital copy of their vaccination, and submit a digital copy of it through the ArriveCAN app before arriving in Canada. They will also still have to take a COVID-19 test pre-departure and upon arrival, and will still have to quarantine if the second test is positive.

Those who are partially vaccinated will still be subject to previous quarantine restrictions, which include up to three nights at a government-authorized hotel. The changes do not apply to foreign nationals, meaning foreign travellers will still have to quarantine upon arrival in Canada, even if they are fully vaccinated.

"This is the first phase of our precautionary approach to easing Canada’s border measures," Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs Dominic LeBlanc said in a statement released Monday.

"At this time we are not opening up our borders any further."

Children under the age of 12 – who are not eligible to get vaccinated – will still have to quarantine for 14 days after travelling as they can transmit COVID-19, Health Minister Patty Hajdu said at a press conference on Monday.

There have been growing calls in recent weeks for the Trudeau government to reopen its borders, which have been largely closed to non-essential travel since March 2020.

In a statement, Canadian Chamber of Commerce chief executive Perrin Beatty says that while the easing of restrictions for fully vaccinated Canadians "is a welcome step," the absence of a plan for a full border reopening has left businesses feeling frustrated.

"Canadian communities whose jobs and livelihoods rely on tourism and companies that need to bring staff into the country for critical business functions will continue to feel the impact of these excessive restrictions," Beatty said.

"The fact that it is easier for vaccinated Canadians to fly to Paris than it is to drive to Buffalo demonstrates how illogical the present policy is. It is time for common sense, guided by science, to dictate a well-considered reopening plan."

Goldy Hyder, chief executive of the Business Council of Canada, says that the government's "long-overdue" easing of border measures "falls far short of the comprehensive plan that Canadians need."

"We're told this is the first phase of the government's approach to easing border measures, but what are the next phases – and how will we know when we get there?" Hyder said in a statement.

"I'm disappointed, too, that the light at the end of the tunnel is still a long ways off for Canada's battered travel, tourism and hospitality sectors."

The Canadian airline industry has also been urging the government to eliminate the quarantine requirements and ease travel restrictions. The National Airlines Council of Canada (NACC) has been pushing the government to implement the recommendations issued by a Health Canada Advisory Panel focusing on border measures. The panel recommended in May that the government discontinue hotel quarantine measures entirely, and that quarantine rules for partially vaccinated or unvaccinated travellers be reduced alongside the use of testing.

The NACC says the airline industry "needs a clear and comprehensive restart plan for international travel and an end to one-off piecemeal announcements concerning quarantine and border policy changes."

"Unlike many other countries including our G7 partners, Canada has yet to provide a clear restart plan outlining when and how major travel and border restrictions will be removed, in particular for fully vaccinated travellers from foreign countries, and how the Panel's recommendations will be adopted," NACC president Mike McNaney said in a statement.

"As vaccination programs increase rapidly and jurisdictions around the world provide consumers and industry with a clear path forward, we must do the same."

Alicja Siekierska is a senior reporter at Yahoo Finance Canada. Follow her on Twitter @alicjawithaj.

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