Canada set to welcome fully vaccinated foreign travellers next week

On Sept. 7, Canada plans to open its borders to fully vaccinated travellers from across the globe, and let them skip the country’s 14-day quarantine requirement.

The rule change is significant, as most non-essential foreign travellers have been barred from entering Canada since the start of the pandemic. 

The federal government started to relax the rules last month, when it began allowing fully vaccinated Americans to enter and skip quarantine. 

But some are questioning if Canada will actually go ahead with its current plans, because on multiple websites, the government continues to call Sept. 7 the “intended” or “tentative” start date for welcoming foreign travellers from outside the U.S.

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“I’ve been kind of looking online every day, Googling to find out at what point is the government of Canada going to make a decision?” said Andy Green, of Halstead, U.K. He and his husband are set to fly to Vancouver on Sept. 9 for a 10-day vacation.

British couple Andy Green, right, and Robert Hull are arriving in Vancouver for vacation on Sept. 9, two days after Canada plans to start allowing fully vaccinated foreigners to enter the country. (Submitted by Andy Green)

When CBC News asked the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) to confirm the start date, it implied Sept. 7 was indeed a go — unless the pandemic suddenly takes a turn for the worse. 

“Provided that the domestic epidemiologic situation remains favourable, the government of Canada intends to open its borders for discretionary travel by travellers from any country who have been fully vaccinated,” said PHAC spokesperson Mark Johnson in an email.

Canada is currently entering a fourth wave of COVID-19 infections, with case numbers trending upward since the end of July. Most of the country’s cases and hospitalizations are among the unvaccinated.

In Alberta, where the infection rate is currently the highest, some physicians are expressing concern over the rising number of COVID-19 patients in hospitals.

At a news conference in early August, the federal government said it considered fully vaccinated travellers low risk, and that those entering would still have to comply with strict travel rules. 

“Only fully vaccinated travellers [are] coming in. They have to get a test before they can even come to Canada,” said Dr. Howard Njoo, Canada’s deputy chief public health officer.

The government also said it’s ready to revise its travel rules, if necessary. 

“We’re taking a precautionary-phased approach to the border reopening,” said Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer. “If we see any significant concerns, of course we can adjust accordingly.”

What are the new travel rules?

Although they’re still waiting for the government to confirm the start date, Green said he and his husband are excited about their trip to Vancouver, as they’ve never visited Canada. 

“We’ve been pretty much locked down here in the U.K. — the same as you guys have over in Canada,” said Green. “It’s been a … pretty difficult time, so we’re looking forward to travelling.”

Even though the couple is fully vaccinated, Green said he’s still nervous about crossing the border. 

“I’m kind of worried that we’re going to turn up at the airport — arrive in Vancouver — and for whatever reason, we’re going to have the wrong documentation.”

Foreign travellers will have to meet a set of requirements to enter Canada and skip quarantine. 

First, to be considered fully vaccinated, they must have received all required doses of a Health Canada-approved COVID-19 vaccine 14 days prior to entering.

And within 72 hours before their arrival, travellers must submit their travel information — including vaccination documents in English or French only — using the ArriveCAN app or by registering online.

Land travellers must also provide proof of a negative COVID-19 molecular test taken within 72 hours of planned entry to Canada. Air travellers must take such a test within 72 hours of the scheduled departure time of their final flight to the country.

There are also special requirements for travellers arriving from India or Morocco. Due to a recent surge in COVID-19 cases in both countries, the federal government has suspended all direct passenger flights from India until Sept. 21 and from Morocco until Sept. 29

Currently, air passengers from those countries can only enter Canada if they show proof of a negative test taken in a different country and depart from that country to come to Canada. 

New guidelines for unvaccinated children

Unvaccinated foreigners who are minors will be allowed to enter Canada with their fully vaccinated parents or guardians, but those 12 or older must quarantine. 

Unvaccinated children under 12 can skip quarantine, but must follow a strict set of rules for 14 days. 

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There were many joyful reunions on the first day that Canada allowed discretionary travel from the U.S. for people who are fully vaccinated. But it also resulted in long lineups at land border crossings. 2:57

For example, children must avoid all contact with people, such as seniors, who can be more susceptible to falling seriously ill from COVID-19. Children must also avoid crowded settings, such as schools, camps, daycares, amusement parks and sporting events.

They can, however, visit “essential settings,” such as pharmacies or grocery stores, if wearing a mask and accompanied by their guardians. 

According to the government, children — and their parents — who don’t comply could be transferred to a quarantine facility and face fines, or even imprisonment.

Provincial vaccine passports

Another hurdle travellers to Canada may face is having to prove their vaccination status to enter certain venues.

In Quebec and Manitoba, people must show proof of vaccination to gain entry to many non-essential locations and activities. Ontario plans to soon implement a similar vaccine passport program, and British Columbia will put one into effect on Sept. 13.

Jimmy Staveris, left, manager of Dunn’s Famous restaurant in Montreal, scans the QR code of a client as Quebec’s COVID-19 vaccine passport comes into effect. (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press)

For Green and his husband, that means four days after they arrive in Vancouver, they’ll be required to show their vaccination documents, along with their passports, at restaurants, concerts, sporting events and nightclubs. 

But Green said he was happy to hear the news.

‘I don’t want to be dining or attending a bar/club with others who are unvaccinated.”


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