Justin Trudeau laid out a timeline for reopening Canada’s border to U.S. and overseas travelers after months of resisting calls for a clear plan from business groups and his political rivals.
The country will be able to welcome fully-vaccinated travelers from the U.S. as early as mid-August, and from all other countries by September, if “the current positive path of vaccination rate and public health conditions continue,” the prime minister’s office said Thursday night in a summary of his meeting with provincial leaders.
The government is expected to share more details early next week. Businesses have been pushing for Trudeau to allow entry by vaccinated U.S. travelers before the summer is over to avoid a second lost summer tourist season.
The Canadian government has barred many travelers, including tourists, from the country since March 2020. Trudeau’s insistence on maintaining restrictions along the U.S.-Canada border has resulted in criticism from industry groups and some U.S. lawmakers.
But there are now fewer than 5,000 active cases of Covid-19 in Canada, down from about 85,000 at the beginning of May, increasing pressure on him to relax the rules.
The prime minister’s cautious approach has support among Canadians, according to recent surveys. And with an election call expected as soon as August, getting the timing right will be key for Trudeau as he tries to regain his parliamentary majority.
“As we have been every step of the way, we are going to be cautious and responsible and take things step-by-step,” the prime minister told reporters Wednesday during an appearance at a wind turbine factory in Gaspe, Quebec.
A recent Nanos Research Group survey conducted for Bloomberg News found that 54% of Canadians were at least somewhat uncomfortable with allowing non-essential U.S. travelers into the country. Some 70% of respondents said the same about non-U.S. travelers.
However, Canada will soon reach the point where the majority of its residents are fully vaccinated.
So far, 69% of Canadians have received at least one dose and 47% are fully vaccinated, according to data from CTV News. In the U.S., about 56% have received at least one dose and 48% are fully vaccinated, according to the Bloomberg Vaccine Tracker.
Fully vaccinated Canadian citizens and residents have been exempt from quarantine since July 5, the first significant easing of restrictions since they were put in place.
While the polls suggest strong support for proceeding cautiously, it could also prove difficult for Trudeau’s Liberals to defend a closed border after Canada reaches the 75% mark on vaccination—a threshold the prime minister has said is important.
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