Canadian citizens and permanent residents who are fully vaccinated will be able to forgo a 14-day quarantine when arriving in the country, the Canadian government announced Monday. The new policy spares them from a polarizing requirement that they stay in a government-approved quarantine hotel.
The closure of Canada’s border with the United States to nonessential travel was recently extended to July 21, angering people on both sides of the border who have been irked by family separations and the inability to plan vacations or shopping trips.
The Canadian government has defended the hotel quarantine policy, which requires travelers to pre-book a three-day minimum stay at a government-approved hotel — at a nonrefundable cost of as much as 2,000 Canadian dollars — as a necessary measure to help keep the coronavirus at bay. Travelers are allowed to finish their quarantine at home once the Covid-19 test they take upon arrival at the airport comes back negative.
Health Minister Patty Hajdu said the cautious approach was predicated on the desire to keep Canadians safe and not to “squander” hard-earned progress in the fight against the coronavirus.
But critics have castigated the quarantine hotel policy as overly expensive and an encroachment on individual liberty. An advisory panel recently advised scrapping the policy, saying that many Canadians were opting to pay a heavy fine rather than stay in the hotels. Others were choosing to fly to the United States and then enter Canada by car, because the hotel-quarantine policy did not apply to travelers arriving by land.
The relaxing of the hotel policy for fully vaccinated Canadian travelers takes effect at 11:59 p.m. Eastern time on July 5. It was greeted with muted joy, in part because most Canadians are not yet fully vaccinated. Also, the changes do not apply to non-Canadians, including Americans, unless, for example, they are essential-service workers or qualify for another exemption to quarantining.
As of June 18, about 4.9 million Canadians, or 13 percent of the population, had been fully vaccinated, and another 19.5 million, or 51 percent, had received the first of two doses, according to data from Canada’s public health ministry. Those figures are expected to rise rapidly once the country obtains larger supplies of vaccine.