Canada announced Monday it will allow fully vaccinated Americans to cross into the country as of Aug. 9.
U.S. citizens and permanent residents will be able to cross the border for nonessential visits so long as they received one of four vaccines approved for use in Canada — from Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson or AstraZeneca.
The announcement sparked a mix of jubilation and derision from policymakers who said the U.S. didn’t take the steps needed to reciprocate immediately.
“This will allow fully vaccinated Americans separated from their families and property in Canada for a year and a half, to be re-united in three weeks. This measure can’t come soon enough,” said Rep. Brian Higgins, a Democrat whose district includes Buffalo and Niagara Falls, said. “It is extremely frustrating that the United States government has failed to reciprocate current family exemptions already allowed by the Canadian government and failed to show a lack of urgency to make any progress on this side of the border toward lifting restrictions.”
Unvaccinated children under age 12 can accompany vaccinated persons and guardians without quarantining upon arrival but must follow local COVID-19 guidelines.
The move is a precursor to Canada’s decision to open its borders to fully vaccinated travelers from all countries on Sept. 7.
Canada got off to a slow start on vaccinations but recently surpassed the U.S. in the share of the population fully vaccinated, at 49.7% compared to 48.2%, although its population is far smaller.
“Thanks to the hard work of Canadians, rising vaccination rates and declining COVID-19 cases, the government of Canada is able to move forward with adjusted border measures,” the Public Health Agency of Canada said in a written statement.
The border had been closed since March 2020, with some exceptions, as the countries battled the coronavirus.
The White House reacted to the announcement by saying they’ll do their own analysis of the situation before returning the favor for travelers entering from Canada.
“We are continuing to review our travel restrictions. Any decisions about reopening travel will be guided by our public health and medical experts,” Press Secretary Jen Psaki said.
Mr. Higgins said they should have been prepared.
“There are logistics to be worked out and questions to be answered certainly, but the U.S. has neglected to give re-opening the northern border the serious attention it deserves, and there is no excuse,” he said.
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, a Democrat, tweeted he “will keep pushing as Washington border communities also need Canadians to be able to come to U.S.”
Canada said travelers should enter their travel information on the ArriveCAN web portal before entry to determine eligibility.
It also said five major airports are preparing for the new guidance and that travelers, regardless of vaccination status, must submit a negative molecular test before flying into Canada.
Fully vaccinated travelers won’t be subjected to post-arrival testing unless they’re randomly selected.
“This strategy allows the government of Canada to continue monitoring variants of concern in Canada and vaccine effectiveness,” the health agency said. “Using these layers of protection, the government of Canada can monitor the COVID-19 situation in Canada, respond quickly to threats, and guide decisions on restricting international travel.”