Trudeau Begins Planning To Reopen US-Canada Border After More Than A Year
For months now, as most US states have largely reopened their economies (with even hard-hit NYC preparing to be “fully reopened” by July1), Canada has lagged behind, leaving restrictions on travel and businesses in place, while the pace of the country’s vaccination campaign has lagged the US.
But apparently all the pressure is finally getting to PM Justin Trudeau, because Bloomberg reported Friday that Trudeau’s government has begun preliminary internal discussions about reopening the border with the US, even as COVID cases have been more stubborn up north.
Senior officials have begun to formally talk about options for how to proceed, three people familiar with the matter said, speaking on the condition that they not be identified. One question under consideration is whether to employ a two-track system in which quarantine and testing requirements would be relaxed for vaccinated travelers.
The world’s longest international border has been shuttered since March 2020 to most non-essential travel, dramatically reducing land and air traffic between the two countries. The restrictions have hit the nation’s tourism and airline sectors particularly hard — one estimate says the measures cost those industries about C$20 billion ($16.5 billion) in revenue last year.
“In the end, it’s a political decision, and at what point does the Canadian side — and it’s the Canadian side at this point that’s the slowpoke — decide that they’re ready to receive and what categories of people that they’ll open up to,” Michael Kergin, a former Canadian ambassador to the U.S., said in a phone interview. “A staged reopening would be the logical approach.”
Any reopening of the border would be gradual and contingent on cases continuing to decline in both the US and Canada. The third wave of the pandemic has hit the northern nation harder because of a vaccine rollout that’s been slowed by supply issues and shipment delays.
Many Canadian provinces remain in extended lockdowns even as the country has ramped up its vaccination campaign. Though the pace of new cases has slowed in April and May, the slowdown hasn’t been as extreme as what’s being seen in the US.
One issue is that the two sides need to agree on a common approach. For example, they would need to agree on a system for verifying vaccine passports, something Trudeau has said Canada is open to doing to help restore cross-border travel, even as President Biden has said he doesn’t favor “vaccine passports” .
“It would make sense for us to align with partners around the world on some sort of proof of vaccination or vaccine certification,” Trudeau said at a May 4 news conference. “We are looking very carefully at it, hoping to align with allied countries, but I can’t speak for the United States and the choices they might make around who to welcome into their country.”
Trudeau is also working with the EU on a bilateral plan. The European bloc has already embraced vaccine passports and will soon begin allowing vaccinated tourists from the US, Canada and elsewhere to start returning to Europe for the summer holidays. As for whether Americans will be able to visit Toronto this summer, that remains unclear.
Fri, 05/14/2021 – 23:20
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