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

Jill Mackenzie carefully replaces books on the shelves at the Houston Public Library. (Angelique Houlihan photo)
District approves annual library grant

Craft kits featured for summer reading club

The tradition of Houston Christian School grads giving Bibles to incoming kindergarten students will take place this year, but outdoors and in a modified fashion. (File photo)
Houston Christian School grad day is June 24

Grads themselves have set tone for the day, says teacher

Scott Richmond will be starting as the new vice principal for HSS and TSE. (Submitted/Houston Today)
Houston gets a new vice principal

Scott Richmond takes over from Dwayne Anderson who moved to Smithers

A Pacific Salmon Foundation grant of $3,000 is going towards the tree plantations. (Cindy Verbeek photo/Houston Today)
550 trees planted in Houston through A Rocha

Houston Christian School students and volunteers help with the tree planting

Currently the Houston station has 16 paramedics, two ambulances and one community paramedic vehicle. (File photo)
Retirement of longtime paramedics worries Houston community

“No loss of service,” assures BC Emergency Health Services

A small pod of Pacific white-sided dolphins pass by close to shore in Campbell River June 16, 2021. Still capture from video courtesy of Kimberly Hart
VIDEO: Dolphin sunset captured from Vancouver Island shore

Spectacular setting for view of travelling pod of Pacific white-sided dolphins

Police are asking for public assistance in locating Anthony Graham who has been charged with the murders of Kamloops brothers Carlo and Erick Fryer. (RCMP photo)
2 charged, suspect at large in killings of B.C. brothers linked to gang activity: RCMP

Kamloops brothers Erick and Carlo Fryer were found deceased in May on a remote Okanagan road

Albert Health Minister Tyler Shandro and Alberta Premier Jason Kenney unveil an opening sign after speaking about the Open for Summer Plan and next steps in the COVID-19 vaccine rollout, in Edmonton, Friday, June 18, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta 1st province in Canada to lift all COVID-19 public health restrictions

70.2% of eligible citizens 12 and older in the province have received a dose of the vaccine

Fraser Health registered nurse Ramn Manan draws a dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine into a syringe at a walk-up vaccination clinic at Bear Creek Park, in Surrey, B.C., on Monday, May 17, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
‘Honour our fathers’ with COVID-19 vaccine protection, B.C. urges

109 new cases Friday, 75 per cent of 12 and up immunized

(Paul Henderson/ Chilliwack Progress)
Trutch Avenue in Chilliwack to be renamed to remove racist taint

New name to have Indigenous significance as Chilliwack takes new step toward reconciliation

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is seen during a joint news conference following the EU-Canada Summit, in Brussels, Belgium, Tuesday June 15, 2021. Trudeau says Canada is on track now to have 68 million doses delivered by the end of July, which is more than enough to fully vaccinate all 33.2 million Canadians over the age of 12. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Vaccine deliveries enough to fully vaccinate all eligible Canadians by end of July

Three in four eligible Canadians now have their first dose, nearly one in five fully vaccinated.

Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam listens to a question during a news conference, in Ottawa, Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2021. The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases attributed to the highly contagious Delta variant grew in Canada this week. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada’s public health agency reports spike in confirmed cases of Delta variant

More than 2,000 cases of the variant confirmed across all 10 provinces and in one territory

Bella Bella is on B.C.’s Central Coast, accessible only by air and ocean. (Tom Fletcher/Black Press)
B.C. provides $22 million for Heiltsuk development on Central Coast

Elders care home project, tourism, lumber mill supported

Most Read