Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam listens to a question during a news conference in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam listens to a question during a news conference in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Public health evaluating how, when Canada can allow fully-vaccinated travellers: Tam

‘Between now and moving toward the fall, we would expect some shifts in that policy’

Federal health officials are re-evaluating what has to happen before Canada can allow fully vaccinated people to enter the country or entirely reopen the border to international travellers, says chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam.

Tam was among federal officials from Health Canada and the Canada Border Services Agency appearing at an emergency meeting of the House of Commons health committee Friday, which focused heavily on when the 14-month-long border closure will finally come to an end.

Tam said it’s not just about deciding what fully immunized people can do, it’s also about Canada’s own pandemic situation, including vaccine coverage at home, case rates and hospital capacity, and the fact there is no standard yet for proving that you are, in fact, fully vaccinated.

“We’re very actively examining the policies related to vaccinated travellers or fully vaccinated travel,” she said at the three-hour long committee hearing.

“I do think that Canada is probably on a good trajectory in terms of its epidemiology and our own vaccination coverage and so I do think that between now and moving toward the fall, we would expect some shifts in that policy.”

She said Canada may, however, continue to require travellers to get tested “given the potential for variants that may have escaped vaccines.”

Canada imposed border restrictions in March 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic surged around the world, and added testing and some hotel quarantine requirements this winter.

Travel volumes at land and border crossings have been a mere fraction of normal. Last summer travel was down more than 90 per cent compared to the year before. Since January 1 of this year, about 3.9 million people arrived in Canada by land or air, compared to 94 million people during the same period of 2019.

Liberal MP Marcus Powlowski, whose Thunder Bay-Rainy River riding in northwestern Ontario runs along the United States border, said there are thousands of businesses that rely on American tourists in the summer.

“If there’s no American tourists this year, they’re going to go bankrupt, and a lot of people will lose their livelihood,” he said. “I think it’s a reasonable question: when can we expect to hear when fully vaccinated people, especially Americans, will be allowed into Canada?”

Tam said it was a reasonable question, and that some changes to policies are coming soon.

More than one-third of the U.S. population is now fully vaccinated, and within that country, officials have given fully vaccinated people permission to travel without quarantining.

Canada hasn’t yet lifted restrictions for anyone regardless of vaccination status, and Powlowski said it’s time to do so.

The European Union moved this week to allow fully vaccinated tourists to travel there.

Alberta Conservative MP John Barlow asked for data showing the impact quarantine hotels are having in Canada, which officials could not provide, leaving Barlow frustrated.

“You have no data that tells me that it curbs the spread of the virus any more than quarantining at home, and there’s no plan to end the hotel quarantine,” he said. “So is this just a means to deter travel?”

Iain Stewart, the president of the Public Health Agency of Canada, said PHAC is monitoring infection rates of travellers quite closely. He said the hotel quarantine policy — which the federal government calls “government-approved accommodations” — is not just meant to be a deterrent.

He said the policy is actually there to prevent people arriving in Canada on a plane and then getting on a domestic flight, carrying COVID-19 with them.

“I also mentioned earlier that the number of people arriving at airports is substantially higher and (they are) more likely to be infected than at the land border,” said Stewart. “And those are the motivating factors behind the government-approved accommodations.”

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism? Make a donation here.

Coronavirusvaccines

Just Posted

Ken Lucks is retiring from his post as principal of Mile 108 Elementary, following a 32-year career with the district. (Melissa Smalley photo - 100 Mile Free Press)
Mile 108 principal bids farewell

Ken Lucks retiring after 32-year career in education

The graduating class of 2021 from Peter Skene Ogden Secondary School. (Patrick Davies photo - 100 Mile Free Press)
PHOTOS: 2021 Grads enjoy reverse grad parade in Centennial Park

Around 75 of the 90 grads showed up too the park

Miguel and Krista Vieira are looking forward to being able to spend more time with their girls Makayla, left, and Hanna. (Mandy McLelland Photography - submitted).
70 Mile General Store owners moving on

Change comes after 34 years in the family

Jenna Harvey. (Photo submitted)
RCMP looking for missing woman between 100 Mile House and Williams Lake

Jenna Harvey was last heard from a week ago and claimed to be hitchhiking north

Hunter Wilson makes a break while playing pool with Tammy Mikkelsen at the Raven Youth Activity Centre. (Patrick Davies photo - 100 Mile Free Press)
Raven Youth Centre reopens doors

Centre has undergone some major changes

Marco Mendicino, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship during a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, May 13, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada to welcome 45,000 refugees this year, says immigration minister

Canada plans to increase persons admitted from 23,500 to 45,000 and expedite permanent residency applications

A portion of the George Road wildfire burns near Lytton, B.C. in this Friday, June 18, 2021 handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, BC Wildfire Service *MANDATORY CREDIT*
Blaze near Lytton spread across steep terrain, says BC Wildfire Service

Fire began Wednesday and is suspected to be human-caused, but remains under investigation

Blair Lebsack, owner of RGE RD restaurant, poses for a portrait in the dining room, in Edmonton, Friday, June 18, 2021. Canadian restaurants are having to find ways to deal with the rising cost of food. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Canadian restaurateurs grapple with rising food costs, menu prices expected to rise

Restaurants are a low margin industry, so there’s not a lot of room to work in additional costs

RCMP crest. (Black Press Media files)
Fort St. John man arrested after allegedly inviting sexual touching from children

Two children reported the incident to a trusted adult right away

Barbara Violo, pharmacist and owner of The Junction Chemist Pharmacy, draws up a dose behind vials of both Pfizer-BioNTech and Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines on the counter, in Toronto, Friday, June 18, 2021. An independent vaccine tracker website founded by a University of Saskatchewan student says just over 20 per cent of eligible Canadians — those 12 years old and above — are now fully vaccinated. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
At least 20% of eligible Canadians fully vaccinated, 75% with one dose: data

Earlier projections for reopening at this milestone didn’t include Delta variant

This undated file photo provided by Ernie Carswell & Partners shows the home featured in the opening and closing scenes of The Brady Bunch in Los Angeles. Do you know the occupation of Mike Brady, the father in this show about a blended family? (Anthony Barcelo/Ernie Carswell & Partners via AP, File)
QUIZ: A celebration of dad on Father’s Day

How much do you know about famous fathers?

Emily Steele holds up a collage of her son, 16-year-old Elijah-Iain Beauregard who was stabbed and killed in June 2019, outside of Kelowna Law Courts on June 18. (Aaron Hemens/Capital News)
Kelowna woman who fatally stabbed teen facing up to 1.5 years of jail time

Her jail sentence would be followed by an additional one to 1.5 years of supervision

Cpl. Scott MacLeod and Police Service Dog Jago. Jago was killed in the line of duty on Thursday, June 17. (RCMP)
Abbotsford police, RCMP grieve 4-year-old service dog killed in line of duty

Jago killed by armed suspect during ‘high-risk’ incident in Alberta

The George Road wildfire near Lytton, B.C., has grown to 250 hectares. (BC Wildfire Service)
B.C. drone sighting halts helicopters fighting 250 hectares of wildfire

‘If a drone collides with firefighting aircraft the consequences could be deadly,’ says BC Wildfire Service

Most Read