By David Ljunggren and Steve Scherer
OTTAWA (Reuters) -Canada on Monday said it would start allowing fully vaccinated U.S. visitors into the country on Aug. 9 for non-essential travel, relaxing a 16-month ban that businesses complained was crippling them.
Inoculated visitors from countries other than the United States will be permitted to enter beginning on Sept. 7. The relaxation depends on Canada’s COVID-19 epidemiology remaining favorable, officials said.
“With rising vaccination rates and fewer cases in
Canada, we can begin to safely ease border measures,” Health Minister Patty Hajdu told reporters.
Businesses in both nations, particularly the travel and airline industries, had demanded an end to restrictions on non-essential travel between Canada and the United States which were imposed in March 2020.
“This will be good for our economy … we welcome the direction and are counting on successful implementation,” said Goldy Hyder, president of the Business Council of Canada.
The United States and Canada have until now extended the restrictions every month.
Canadian Public Safety Minister Bill Blair said U.S. officials told him it was likely Washington would extend the U.S. ban for a month when it expires on July 22.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki declined to say whether the United States would follow Canada’s lead.
“We are continuing to review our travel decisions and we’ll be guided by our public health and medical experts … I wouldn’t look at it through a reciprocal intention,” she told a briefing when asked about Canada’s move.
People eligible to enter Canada must have been fully vaccinated at least 14 days beforehand. From Aug. 9, Ottawa is also lifting the requirement that all travelers arriving by air must spend three nights in a hotel.
The government repeated that Canadians should avoid non-essential travel abroad.
The news should be a boost for Canada’s hard-hit airlines which have recovered more slowly from the pandemic than their U.S. counterparts.
Shares in Air Canada – the nation’s largest airline – were trading down 3% in Toronto on Monday amid a broader decline.
Canada’s second-largest carrier, WestJet Airlines, said it was operating at 60% capacity in July compared with pre-pandemic levels in 2019.
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