TORONTO — Border restrictions on nonessential travel between Canada and the U.S. will be extended until July 21, Canadian officials said Friday, as the country works to get a higher percentage of Canadians fully vaccinated.
Canada’s Public Safety Minister Bill Blair said the move has been made in coordination with the U.S., where there are growing calls to open the border for nonessential travel like tourism.
“We’re still seeing cases across the country and we want to get them down,” Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said. “At the same time we also know we have to hit our targets of 75% vaccinated with the first dose and at least 20% vaccinated with the second dose before we can start loosening things up because even a fully vaccinated individual can pass on COVID-19 to someone who is not vaccinated.”
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Currently, less than 20% of Canadians are fully vaccinated.
“Even though they are protected from hospitalization, the people around them might not be,” Trudeau said, noting the need to protect communities.
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The border between Canada and the U.S. remains closed to all nonessential travel. The restrictions were announced in March 2020, in the early months of the pandemic and have been extended every month since.
Even some provinces in Canada remain closed to each other. Ontario and Quebec only opened this week for nonessential travel between the two provinces. And Atlantic Canada will be closed to Canadians from elsewhere in Canada well into July.
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The Canadian government expects to have enough vaccine delivered for 80% of eligible Canadians to be fully vaccinated by the end of July.
About 70% of eligible Canadians have had at least one dose of vaccine and second doses are ramping up this month and next. Canada delayed administering a second dose to get more people a level of protection with the first dose faster and as the country waited for more supply to arrive.
Canada only started getting U.S. manufactured vaccines in May as the U.S. didn’t allow for exports until then. Canada had largely been getting vaccines from Europe until Pfizer doses began arriving from Pfizer’s Michigan plant in May.
The Trudeau administration has said it anticipates fully vaccinated Canadian citizens who test negative for COVID-19 will be exempt from two weeks of quarantine when returning to the country in early July. Public Safety Minister Blair noted the government plans to release details on Monday.