Business groups are calling on the Canadian and US governments to relax border restrictions for vaccinated travelers this month, increasing pressure on Justin Trudeau to act swiftly.
Chambers of commerce on both sides of the border, along with other groups, want travelers who’ve been fully inoculated against COVID-19 to be able to cross the border without having to show a negative test or undergo a quarantine, a letter to be released Tuesday said. The groups want these changes to take effect on June 22, a day after the pact that limits non-essential travel between the two countries is due for renewal, according to the letter, which was reported first by Bloomberg News.
Trudeau is expected to shorten the existing two-week quarantine requirement for vaccinated travelers in coming days, Bloomberg News reported Monday. Tests would still be required, people familiar with the plans said, suggesting the initial Canadian move will fall short of the business groups' demands.
Easing restrictions this month "to take account of rising vaccination levels would sustain jobs, boost business confidence and allow more families to reunite," the groups said. "It would help facilitate a safe and gradual return to a more normal life."
Signatories to the letter include the Canadian and US chambers of commerce, the Retail Council of Canada, the National Retail Federation in the United States, the Business Council of Canada, industry group the Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters, and the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business.
Every month since March 2020, Canada and the United States have extended the border restrictions to curb the spread of COVID-19. Now with summer around the corner and vaccination rates rising, lawmakers on both sides of the border are facing calls to lay out a plan for reopening.
A new poll conducted by Nanos Research Group for Bloomberg News shows Canadians are becoming more receptive to reopening the US border. While 53 percent of respondents remain somewhat uncomfortable with easing restrictions on US travel, that’s down from closer to 80 percent earlier in the pandemic.
Some travel and tourism businesses say it's urgent. "Our occupancy rate has been a little lower than 20 percent. I don't think we'll be able to do many more months like this," Christiane Germain, co-president of the Quebec-based Germain Hotels chain, said in an interview on BNN Bloomberg Television.
"We need to have goals in order to open up the border. We need to know what the vaccination rate should be in order to open up the borders. I think it would be an incentive to get vaccinated," Germain said.
US and Canadian government officials began discussions to loosen restrictions on the world’s longest undefended border earlier this year. The border between the two nations has been closed to most non-essential travel since the start of the pandemic.
The restrictions have hit Canada's tourism and airline sectors particularly hard. One estimate says the measures cost those industries about C$20 billion ($16.5 billion) in revenue last year. Trade data released by Statistics Canada on Tuesday shows spending by foreign travelers to Canada fell to C$889 million in April, near the decade-low levels seen earlier in the pandemic.
In addition to removing the COVID-19 test and quarantine requirements, the business groups are also asking the Canadian and US governments to mutually recognize vaccine credentials to support the movement of inoculated citizens and produce a plan that includes clear guidelines for all other travelers.