Three Burning Questions Remain After Big Quarantine Announcement

Clockwise from the top left: Patty Hadju, Minister of Health, Anita Anand, Minister of Public Services and Procurement, Dominic LeBlanc, Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs during news conference 09 JUN 2021

The announcement for the end of quarantine hotels was highly anticipated, and the travel industry’s expectations were high.

On 09JUN, Ottawa announced that fully vaccinated Canadians would be permitted to re-enter the country without having to go into hotel quarantine or even 14-day quarantine, although they would still be required to provide a negative pre-departure test and be tested on arrival, with a quarantine plan for the 3 days it takes to receive that result.

But even as the travel industry welcomed what the government is calling a first phase of a “cautious” reopening of Canada’s borders, the announcement produced more questions than answers.

Today, travel is no farther along in knowing the answers to these Big Questions:

What’s the Timeline?

The only timing federal ministers were prepared to give was that the first phase would hopefully begin in “early JUL”, with the Health Minister saying “first week of JUL.”

No specific date was given for even the first phase – let alone subsequent phases that would allow Canadian travel operators and retailers to make plans and advise clients.

What Happens in Future Phases?

Ottawa has not given any indication of how many future phases of reopening there will be or what will happen in each subsequent phase.

Open Jaw reported last month that an expert panel convened by the Minister of Health advised the government to scrap the hotel quarantine program altogether, and treat passengers arriving by air or land the same, differentiating only based on their vaccination status.

It recommended:

  • Fully vaccinated or recovered arrivals should be exempt from pre-departure testing;
  • Fully vaccinated arrivals should be tested upon arrival then exempt from quarantine and the tests a week later; and
  • Partially vaccinated arrivals should be exempt from quarantine providing their test on arrival is negative.

The government clearly isn’t using this advice as its only playbook. Just days after receiving the advice, instead of adopting it and scrapping hotel quarantines, it upped the fine for arriving passengers who skipped it.

Nonetheless, it’s the only indication of what kinds of steps Ottawa might choose to implement in future phases.

The panel did not differentiate arrivals based on nationality. However, during the 09JUN announcement of the relaxation of hotel quarantine requirements, the ministers made it very clear that applied only to those who were permitted to enter Canada, and the border remains closed to non-essential travel – so it really only applies to returning Canadians.

There is no indication when Ottawa plans to permit foreign tourists to enter Canada under any conditions.

So… What About Vaccine Passports?

The Health Minister’s advisory panel’s recommendations for fully and partially vaccinated arrivals all stipulated proof should be required.

And in apparent support for some kind of universal ‘vaccine passport’, the panel also said, “A system to validate proof of vaccination for arriving travellers should be made available as soon as possible.”

Wednesday, Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic LeBlanc reiterated Ottawa is still working on some kind of “national document” or “vaccine passport” to verify vaccination status.

While he said, “Possibly the national vaccine passport… may not be ready at the beginning of JUL,” that won’t prevent the changes in rules from taking place.

Until the “technical details” are sorted out, LeBlanc said Canadians would have flexibility to prove their vaccination status and border agents would have the authority to make decisions.

Prior to 09JUL, government ministers have indicated that the federal ArriveCAN app currently in use  may be adapted to include vaccination status.

Lynn Elmhirst

With a background in broadcast news and travel lifestyles TV production, Lynn is just as comfortable behind or in front of the camera as she is slinging words into compelling stories at her laptop. Having been called a multi-media ‘content charmer’, Lynn’s other claim to fame is the ability to work 24/7, forgoing sleep until the job is done. Documented proof exists in a picture of Lynn at the closing celebrations of an intense week, standing, champagne in hand - sound asleep. That’s our kind of gal.

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