OTTAWA, (Reuters) – Canada is extending a ban on non-essential travel with the United States and the rest of the world until July 21, officials said today, prompting frustration from businesses worried about the economic damage.
Canada’s Liberal government is under pressure from businesses and the tourism industry to ease the ban, which was first imposed in March 2020 to help contain spread of the coronavirus and has been renewed on a monthly basis ever since.
But Prime Minister Justin Trudeau stood firm, saying the border would stay largely shut until 75% of Canadians had received the first of a two-dose coronavirus vaccine and 20% had been given both shots. Canada has achieved the first target but only around 3% of the eligible population has had both shots.
“Even a fully vaccinated individual can pass on COVID-19 to someone who is not vaccinated,” Trudeau told reporters.
“We all want to get back to normal which means, yes, moving quickly, but it also means avoiding any further massive waves.”
Although the ban does not affect trade in goods, it is hitting travel operators and the export of services.
The Canadian Chamber of Commerce – a national group that advocates for businesses – lamented what it said was Ottawa’s excessive caution.
“I’m disappointed … all of the science would say we should be moving ahead to reopen the border. We don’t even have a plan at this point,” said Perrin Beatty, the group’s president and chief executive.
“Unfortunately … we are the world leader in terms of first shots and we are a world laggard when it comes to having a strategy,” he said in a phone interview.
The United States is Canada’s largest trading partner.
Ottawa will reveal on June 21 how it plans to start lifting the measures for fully vaccinated Canadians. Officials have already said quarantine protocols will be scrapped for citizens who had received their second dose.