Canada extends border closure to the US through May 21

Apr 21, 2021

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While parts of the world are beginning to reopen, Canada is continuing to keep its borders under a tight grip.

Visit TPG’s guide to all coronavirus news and updates

Canada and the United States have agreed to extend the ban on nonessential travel between the United States and Canada through May 21, 2021. Government leaders in both countries first announced the border closure more than one year ago on March 21, 2020, and have extended the order on a near-monthly basis since.

According to Reuters, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security said that it’s been “engaged in discussions with Canada and Mexico about easing restrictions as health conditions improve.”

Canada began providing swab tests at more than 100 U.S. land border locations back on Feb. 22. The tests can be taken at either “the traveler’s quarantine location or at a border testing site,” according to Canada’s Public Health Agency. The move came in response to growing concerns over new COVID-19 variants.

“We’ll continue to do whatever is necessary to keep Canadians safe,” Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau previously has stated over Twitter. Essential workers such as healthcare professionals, delivery trucks and airline crew members are still permitted to travel between countries.

Previously, Trudeau announced that travelers entering via a land border will be required to produce the result of a negative COVID-19 PCR test. People who fail to do so could be fined up to $2,370. This requirement went into effect on Feb. 15.

In early February, Canada extended its ban on cruise ships, prohibiting vessels carrying 100 or more people until Feb. 28, 2022. The ban also effectively closes the Canadian Arctic to boat-related tourism until 2022 and puts the entire Alaska cruise season in jeopardy.

Related: Canada to enforce hotel quarantine for arrivals, ban travel to Mexico and the Caribbean

In January, Canada tightened its requirements for travelers arriving by air: As of Jan. 7, all travelers ages 5 or older must present a negative COVID-19 test result prior to boarding any flight entering Canada from another country.

All travelers to Canada are also required to take a PCR test upon arrival and pay for a three-day quarantine in a government-approved hotel while waiting for the result of the test. If the traveler’s test returns a negative result, they will be able to finish their mandatory 14-day quarantine at home. If a traveler’s test comes back positive, they will be required to quarantine in designated government facilities.

The country has banned travel to “sun destinations” in Mexico and the Caribbean until April 30.

The hotel quarantine policy has also been extended to May 21, 2021, and Trudeau said that more flight measures may be coming.

“We are continuing to look at more [measures],” Trudeau said. “I have asked our officials to look carefully at, for example, what the U.K. has done very recently on suspending flights from India.”

how the closures affect nonessential travelers

At this time, only Canadian citizens, permanent residents, people registered under Canada’s Indian Act, protected persons, select foreign nationals traveling for essential reasons and immediate family members of Canadian citizens or residents are allowed to enter Canada. Of course, there are exceptions.

Related: Where can I go right now? A country-by-country guide to reopening

As of Oct. 2, 2020, there are new processes in place that allow certain extended family members of Canadian citizens and permanent residents of Canada, in addition to individuals wishing to enter Canada for compassionate reasons, to petition for access to enter Canada.

But travelers who were hoping to book a leisurely train ride or plan a road trip for a long weekend in Canada will need to hold off on those plans for now.

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 last spring that 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 must quarantine for 14 days upon arrival, and the first three days must now be spent in a government-approved hotel until a negative COVID-19 test result come back. This type of travel restriction, even if the border were to reopen, 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 an expensive, government-mandated period of isolation.

At this time, consequences for violating the quarantine period can be severe, with penalties including a fine of up to $750,000, six months of imprisonment and being removed from Canada and refused entry for a year. At least one U.S. visitor is already facing a $569,000 fine for flouting Canadian quarantine requirements.

If someone causes “a risk of imminent death or serious bodily harm to another person while willfully or recklessly contravening this act or the regulations,” the fine could go up to $1,000,000 with jail time increased to three years, according to the Canada Border Services Agency.

Banned cruises

In March 2020, when the pandemic first spread across North America, Trudeau announced a ban on cruise ships that has since been extended, making it one of the longest cruise ship bans from any major cruise destination.

In February of 2021, that ban was extended, forbidding cruise ships from stopping at Canadian ports until at least Feb. 28, 2022, exempting smaller vessels that carry fewer than 100 people, including passengers and crew. The move not only affects cruises to Canada but also most Alaska cruises, which rely heavily on Canadian ports to be lawful.

Related: When will cruise ships resume sailing? A line-by-line guide

Travel documents

In addition to a valid 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. All travelers ages 5 and older must now also present proof of a negative COVID-19 molecular test taken with 72 hours of your scheduled departure time to Canada. Without these documents and permissions, you will not be allowed to board your flight.

You must also provide contact information upon arrival in Canada. This form can be accessed in paper or digital form, as well as with the ArriveCAN mobile app, which could speed up your arrival process.

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

Now, travelers must also take a COVID-19 molecular test upon arrival to Canada and before leaving the airport. Travelers will receive instructions for receiving another test at the end of the mandatory quarantine period.

Temperature checks

The Government of Canada requires temperature screenings for all passengers traveling to Canada or travelers leaving Canada for international or domestic destinations.

“For international flights to Canada, air operators must conduct temperature screenings at the point of departure, unless the local authority has an equivalent measure in place, in addition to the existing required health check questions for symptoms prior to boarding,” the Government of Canada announced in June 2020.

Furthermore, the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority will conduct temperature screening of passengers as part of departure procedures. This measure was added in addition to mandated face coverings and health screening questions for all passengers.

Masks are required

At this time, masks are required by law in Canada. Masks are mandatory for travelers flying from, to or within Canada both on planes and in airports.

For Air Canada and other carriers, masks are also required at check-in, during boarding and for the duration of the flight. Travelers should pack their own face masks, though Air Canada began providing “care kits” stocked with a face mask, gloves, disinfecting wipes and hand sanitizer, among other amenities.

With additional reporting by Katherine Fan, Chris Dong, Mimi Wright, Clint Henderson and Emily McNutt.

Featured photo by Francis Yap M/Getty Images

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