The federal government says it will soon loosen quarantine restrictions for Canadian travellers returning to the country, but only if they have been fully vaccinated.
The government announced on Wednesday that Canadian citizens, permanent residents and essential workers who have been fully vaccinated at least 14-days before departure will be able to enter the country without having to quarantine in a government-authorized hotel for up to three days. Travellers will still have to produce a negative PCR test result before departure, and will also be tested upon arrival. They will also have to have a "suitable quarantine plan" as they wait for their airport test results. Only those who received COVID-19 vaccines approved by Health Canada – meaning AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson, Moderna and Pfizer – will be considered fully vaccinated.
The government said it is expecting the changes to go into effect "at the beginning of July."
Health Minister Patty Hajdu called the rule change "the first step" in the government's plan to reopening its borders.
"We'll take a phased approach towards adjusting current border measures with the health and safety of Canadians being our first priority," Hajdu said at a press conference Wednesday.
"The difference is that fully vaccinated travellers with a right of entry to Canada will be able to forgo staying in a government-approved or government-authorized hotel until such time that they receive their negative Day 1 test. That's the big change."
Canadian airlines have been pushing the federal government to eliminate its quarantine restrictions, rules that Air Canada CEO Michael Rousseau previously called "ineffective."
In a statement, the National Airlines Council of Canada (NACC) says the move to ease quarantine requirements for fully vaccinated travellers "falls far short" of recommendations that the group hoped would be implemented. In late May, the Health Canada Advisory Panel released a report on border measures, recommending that hotel quarantine measures be discontinued entirely and quarantine rules for partially vaccinated or unvaccinated travellers be reduced alongside the use of testing.
"Today's announcement by federal Ministers did not address any of those measures nor provide a timeframe in which the government will move forward on the recommendations."
NACC president and chief executive officer Mike McNaney is calling on the government to introduce a clear restart plan for international travel.
"As vaccination programs increase rapidly and jurisdictions around the world provide consumers and industry with a clear path forward, we must do the same," McNaney said.
"Countries that successfully implement a science and data-based testing and quarantine policy will not only protect public health, they will also drive their overall domestic recovery and take jobs and investment from countries that do not. We must get moving now."
The federal government introduced a mandatory hotel quarantine for travellers coming to Canada by air in February. Under the plan, non-essential travellers are required to take a COVID-19 test when they arrive, before leaving the airport. They are then required to go to a quarantine hotel, at their own expense, until their test is returned, for up to three days.
Alicja Siekierska is a senior reporter at Yahoo Finance Canada. Follow her on Twitter @alicjawithaj.