Dreams to travel may not be reality for a while for Canadians

CALGARY — It’s been more than a year since Canada announced restrictions on non-essential travel via air and by land through the U.S.-Canada border and many people are getting weary of the lack of escape.

Christoper Woolnough and his wife have been travelling since they were 18 and are well on their mission to complete 40 countries by the time they are 40. They have their eyes set on the next destination.

“Scandinavia or somewhere around there that’s where we were looking last time,” he said.

“You can think about it and you can look at pictures but that’s kind of it right now.”

As the death toll rises and variants continue to spread, the pandemic has been devastating to the world. Beyond the loss of life and sickness, economies have been ravaged, including the tourism industry.

The Calgary Chamber of Commerce says the city sees a massive boost during the summer as people all over the world usually visit. Unfortunately, such crowds will not be descending for the second year in a row, which means another hit for the tourism season.

“It’s been hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars lost, especially as each month that goes by,” said Murray Sigler, interim CEO for the Chamber of Commerce.

Communities near the 49th parallel that usually see constant traffic from the United States have noticed changes. The mayor of Coutts Village, Jim Willett, says they are doing fine but some places such as the Duty-Free shop, a local pub and an RV park have lost lots of business due to lack of tourists.

“It’s not the way it used to be and we would like to obviously see things open up within reason,” said Willett.

In order for travel restrictions to ease and for the border to open up, Dr. James Talbot, the province’s former chief medical officer of health, says Canada will need to meet certain criteria.

Dr. Talbot says it’s difficult to produce specific numbers but says generally the federal government will need to look at the case rates, immunization levels of the population and determine how the variants are acting.

“Whether these variants are circulating in your area and whether those variants are the type that are likely to escape vaccines,” he said.

As for vaccination rates, Canada is lagging behind the United States. According to Our World Data, only two per cent of the Canadian population is fully vaccinated whereas 20 per cent of the American population has been fully vaccinated. And just this week President Joe Biden announced he is moving up his deadline by two weeks for states to make all adults in the U.S. eligible for a vaccine.

“We’re in a situation in which they’re highly immunized and we’re not and that’s going to interfere with doing anything at the border,” said Dr. Talbot.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has aimed to offer the vaccine to all Canadians who want it by the end of September.

For travellers, such as Woolnough, who is anxious to get back out in the world, the hope is his shot will come sooner.

“I’m really hoping that I eventually get vaccinated and then maybe we can consider travelling.”

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