Trudeau hopeful more border updates ‘in coming weeks’

OTTAWA — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says Canadians can soon expect more updates about the easing of travel restrictions should vaccinations continue to increase and COVID-19 case counts remain low.

His comments come a day after the federal government announced that effective July 5 at 11:59 p.m. EDT, fully immunized Canadians can return to the country after travel without having to self-isolate for 14 days, take a test on day eight, or have to stay in a designated quarantine hotel upon arrival.

“We are looking at continuing our plan for gradual and safe reopening, hopefully with more announcements in the coming weeks about next and further steps,” said Trudeau speaking to reporters on Tuesday.

He said the government and health officials are keeping a close eye on variants of concern, including the highly transmissible Delta variant, which was first identified in India.

“We have to look at what variants of concern are present in Canada and, indeed, the situation around the world, because every step of the way we’re going to be cautious and responsible in the way we move forward. We’re all eager to get back to normal but we’re going to make sure we’re doing it in a way that is safe for Canadians,” he said.

Monday’s announcement left several key questions outstanding about how these policies may impact unique situations—such as Quebecers who have had COVID-19 and have been told they only need to receive one dose of a vaccine. The government said it’ll continue to monitor the rollout of the eased restrictions and the evolving science.

“As always, as a country, we make our decisions based on the best science, the best evidence, the best data available and I know that our experts are leaning in on exactly that question,” said Trudeau.

The change also doesn’t apply to fully vaccinated non-citizens who are looking to visit for non-essential reasons, and for any Canadian traveller who is not fully-vaccinated, the existing suite of travel restrictions will remain in effect.

This provision has angered some tourism, hospitality, and business groups.

In a statement, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce said the Monday announcement is still “out of step with science” and is behind provincial reopening plans.

“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,” said the Chamber’s CEO Perrin Beatty on Monday.

Business Council of Canada CEO Goldy Hyder echoed this sentiment, saying in a separate statement that while the move is welcome and long-overdue, it “falls far short of the comprehensive plan” that factors in the hard-hit hospitality and tourism sectors.

“A transparent plan with clear benchmarks to reopen travel would be a powerful tool for encouraging Canadians to get fully vaccinated. The Council is disappointed that the government hasn’t seen fit to tell Canadians what they can look forward to as the vaccination campaign rolls on,” Hyder said.

In terms of benchmarks to reopening, Trudeau said it depends on vaccination rates.

“We will be able to get there even sooner if Canadians continue to be so enthusiastic about getting those two doses that they need. We’re already up above 20 per cent in terms of full vaccinations. In the coming weeks we expect that to continue to rise rapidly and that will allow us to get to a place where we can accept larger volumes of people coming into this country,” he said.

Later in the day, Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer indicated that a risk-assessment tool is being developed so that Canadians with two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine better understand what they can and can’t do.

With files from CTV News’ Rachel Aiello.

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