Reporter Debrief: The View From Canada Of Extended Border Restrictions
Starting Aug. 9, vaccinated travelers from the U.S. will be able to enter Canada for non-essential trips for the first time since March of 2020. But Canadians won't be able to enter the U.S. at least until Aug. 21. That was decided by an order from the Biden administration this week, and members of Congress who represent some border districts from both parties have expressed frustration at this mismatch. But what's the reaction like in Canada?
VPR’s Henry Epp spoke with Verity Stevenson, a reporter with the CBC in Montreal. Their conversation below has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Henry Epp: So, what are you hearing so far from Quebec residents on the continued restrictions from the U.S.?
Verity Stevenson: So, it's a mixed bag. First of all, business owners are mostly happy about the fact that fully vaccinated Americans will be able to enter Canada without having to quarantine and so on.
But then, for residents wanting to travel to the U.S., I think that the announcement yesterday was a little bit disappointing and also surprising, given that it seemed like it was mostly Canada that was pushing for all those months for the border to stay closed.
And so then for it to be seemingly the U.S. pushing to keep it closed for another month, basically, that was, I think, a disappointment for people who were hoping [to travel], or some people who had planned, maybe even booked some accommodations.
So, it's a bit of a mix.
As I mentioned, a tourist from the U.S. will be allowed to enter into Canada starting in just a few weeks. I mean, so business owners seem happy about that? Do you have a sense of what the general public feels like about that?
So, from our reporting, people were sort of hoping that it meant that ‘OK, the U.S. border would open as well.’ We have pretty high vaccination rates, both in Quebec and the rest of Canada, so I don't think there's a huge worry.
The rest of international travelers will also be able to enter the country without quarantining as of Sept. 7. So, there hasn't been a huge amount of concern in terms of, you know, possible variants and so on.
Are people excited to have Americans come back to places like Montreal?
Yeah, I think so. I think, you know, aside from businesses and so on, it means just more people in cities and more things happening. More people showing up at events and restaurants and so on. A bit more life, you know, generally. I think cities like Montreal and Quebec City are really used to having American travelers, so it just means a bit more back to normal.
Speaking of that, Quebec has generally taken a fairly cautious approach, at least compared to much of the U.S., in terms of easing pandemic restrictions. What is the landscape right now, in terms of what restrictions are in place?
Right now, for example, in Montreal, we do have restaurants, bars and gyms are open. When you're sitting at the table, you don't have to wear a mask, but when you enter the establishment, you do have to be wearing a mask. And there's distancing rules and maximum capacity for the different establishments.
And another thing, in terms of bars, if you know people are visiting, there's no, for example, dancing and karaoke. But that's pretty much the landscape right now.
And you mentioned a fairly high vaccination rate in in the province. Given that, are health officials expressing any concern about variants?
The delta variant right now in Quebec represents about 5% of new infections. So, people are mostly happy that they've been able to keep it quite low.
I think there is concern, you know, as things open up. The province is even planning to hold this sort of large test concert in the fall to test safety protocols, with the view of welcoming more international tourists to the sort of festivals that Quebec is famous for.
So, I think there's concern around those kinds of big plans. But right now, it's mostly a sort of relief that we've been able to keep it at bay.
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