Canada to keep its border closed until late June — here’s what you need to know

May 19, 2020

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For travelers who are eyeing close-to-home vacations this summer, a quick hop across the northern border to Canada may still be out of the question.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced during a press conference on Tuesday, May 19, that the border between the United States and Canada will remain closed until at least June 21. The border has been closed since March 21, and additional 30-day extensions are not out of the question.

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“It was the right thing to further extend [the border closure] … but we will continue to watch carefully what’s happening elsewhere in the world and around us as we make decisions on next steps,” Trudeau said during the press conference, according to CNN.

At this time, only Canadian citizens, permanent residents and select foreign nationals traveling for essential reasons are allowed to enter Canada. There are exceptions, of course. But for travelers who were hoping to book a leisurely train ride or plan a road trip for a long weekend in Canada, you’ll have to push those plans back at least another month.

When Canada does reopen its borders, many existing safety measures will almost certainly remain in place. Canada’s chief public health officer, Dr. Theresa Tam, told CNN the mandatory two-week quarantine “remains a cornerstone as we go forward.”

So, when will Canada reopen, and what will travel there look like when it does? Here’s everything we know so far.

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Mandatory quarantine period

Even travelers who have no symptoms of COVID-19 should expect a two-week quarantine. It’s the kind of travel restriction that, even if the border was open, would likely discourage travelers from visiting Canada for leisure. After all, there’s nothing that can siphon the fun out of a vacation quite like a government-mandated, 14-day quarantine.

The consequences for violating the quarantine period can be severe, with penalties including a fine up to $750,000, six months of imprisonment and being removed from Canada and refused entry for a year.

Banned cruises

In mid-March, Trudeau announced a lengthy ban on cruise ships. The ban forbids cruise ships from stopping at Canadian ports until at least July, exempting smaller vessels that carry fewer than 500 people including passengers and crew.

The move not only affects cruise itineraries with ports of call in Canada but also most Alaska cruises, which rely heavily on Canadian ports to be lawful.

Travel documents

In addition to your passport and, if necessary, a valid visitor visa, all Canada-bound travelers must affirm they are exempt from travel restrictions and traveling for an essential reason at this time. That could mean proof of residency; proof of relationship to an immediate family member who is a Canadian citizen; or written authorization from the Canadian government. Without these documents and permissions, you will not be allowed to board your flight.

Related: When will international travel return? A country-by-country guide to coronavirus recovery

Temperature checks

The nation’s flag carrier, Air Canada, has launched a spate of new health and sanitation measures. Called CleanCare+, the program includes mandatory infrared temperature checks for all passengers as of May 15. It was the first airline in North America to introduce this type of screening. Travelers who present with a temperature will be rebooked on a later flight at no cost but will be required to get medical clearance before flying.

Masks may be required

At this time, nonmedical face masks are optional in Canada. If you are out in public, you are not required to wear a mask or any other form of personal protective equipment. Masks are, however, mandatory for travelers flying from, to or within Canada.

The measure, which came into effect on April 20, requires travelers to keep their mouth and nose covered at airport screening checkpoints and when physical distancing is not possible. For passengers flying with Air Canada, masks are also required at check-in, during boarding and for the duration of the flight.

Travelers should be sure to pack their own face masks, though Air Canada began providing “care kits” on May 15 stocked with a face mask, gloves, disinfecting wipes and hand sanitizer, among other amenities.

Featured photo by Francis Yap M/Getty Images.

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