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While Canada is set to loosen pandemic travel restrictions for fully-vaccinated Canadians this week, Public Safety Minister Bill Blair said Sunday the government aims to reach a vaccination rate of 75% before fully reopening the border between Canada and the U.S. for nonessential travel.

Key Facts

The “finish line,” which will signal the end of pandemic-related travel restrictions, will be met when 75% of Canadians are fully vaccinated against coronavirus, Blair told the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation Sunday.

The goal means Canada needs to nearly quadruple its vaccination rate before the border with the U.S., the longest demilitarized land border in the world, is fully reopened to pre-pandemic norms.

Unlike its southern neighbor, Canada has made a point to get as many people their first vaccine dose as possible—while 75% of Canadians aged 12 and older have received one dose, only 20% are fully vaccinated, compared to the 45% of Americans who have had both doses.

The ban on nonessential travel between Canada and the U.S. has cost both countries billions of dollars, and officials are facing pressure from both sides of the border to speed up the reopening process.

Officials say the scheduled delivery of more than 68 million vaccine doses over the next six weeks could open up vaccination spots for the Canadians waiting on their first or second dose and may be enough for all eligible Canadians to get fully vaccinated.

Crucial Quote

“As those vaccines arrive and as Canadians continue to get in those lines and get vaccines into their arms, we’re really optimistic that we can meet that threshold of 75%,” Blair said Sunday.

What To Watch For 

On Monday, Canada will announce new, looser guidelines regarding quarantine periods for fully vaccinated Canadians and permanent residents, and other travel-related restrictions, Blair said.

Key Background

On Friday, both the Canadian and U.S. governments agreed to extend pandemic border restrictions against nonessential travel until at least July 21, marking a full 15 months since tourism between the two neighboring countries was banned. The slow reopening process has been a source of frustration on both sides. Congressman Brian Higgins (D-NY), whose congressional district contains Niagara Falls, the biggest tourist draw on the border, called the closure extension “bullshit” in a statement Friday. “The lack of transparency surrounding these negotiations is a disservice to our constituents on both sides of the border waiting to see their loved ones, visit their property and renew business ties,” Higgins said. Destination Canada, a government group that serves Canadian tourism, estimated in March that tourism-adjacent companies have lost $16 billion USD since borders were closed. Canada and the U.S. shut the border to nonessential travel in March 2020, at the onset of alarm over the coronavirus pandemic.

Source: Forbes

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