Trudeau Ministers Begin Sketching Plan to Reopen U.S. Border

Justin Trudeau’s government began to outline the conditions for easing travel restrictions at the Canada-U.S. border.

Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic Leblanc said Friday that U.S. and Canadian officials are discussing how to move forward with reopening the world’s longest international border, which has been closed to most non-essential traffic for more than a year to curb the spread of coronavirus.

“We recognize that in the coming weeks, when the number of vaccinated people grows and if we continue to see a reduction in Covid cases and hospitalizations, that we may be in a position to progressively loosen these measures,” Leblanc told reporters.

Transport Minister Omar Alghabra said the government is assessing the situation both in Canada and abroad, focusing on metrics including the number of infections and hospitalizations, the spread of variants and vaccination rates. The government has also imposed restrictions on some non-U.S. travel, such as a ban on direct flights from India and Pakistan that was extended by a month on Friday.

Trudeau Ministers Begin Sketching Plan to Reopen U.S. Border

The comments come after Trudeau’s government began holding internal discussions about options available to loosen travel rules as vaccination rates rise and Covid-19 case counts drop on both sides of the Canada-U.S. border. Bloomberg News was first to report the talks last Friday.

“We are working with the Biden administration to -- as much as possible-- to align our measures at the border with the United States. These discussions are ongoing,” Leblanc said.

Canada closed the border it shares with its largest trading partner to non-essential travel in March 2020. It also imposed a mandatory 14-day quarantine for anyone entering the country from abroad. Travelers must now present a negative Covid-19 test and foot the bill for additional tests --- and, if they fly in, go through a three-day hotel quarantine before being allowed to leave confinement.

“Eventually we’re going to start opening up travel,” Alghabra said at the same Ottawa press briefing. “But right now we’re focused on the third wave.”

Trudeau, speaking to reporters Tuesday, flagged a 75% vaccination rate as key threshold when asked about potentially reopening the border.

Almost 40% of Canadians have received a first dose, but just over 3% are fully inoculated, according to the Bloomberg Vaccine Tracker. By comparison, more than 48% of Americans have had their first shot and 38% are fully vaccinated.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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