Canada’s border agents are bracing for a spike in would-be travellers trying to enter the country on the first full weekend since travel restrictions began to ease.
The Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) said incoming traffic has increased about 25 per cent since Monday, when quarantine rules were waived for fully vaccinated Canadians and permanent residents.
Denis Vinette, vice-president of the agency’s travellers branch, said the number of incoming visitors is likely to go up even more this weekend.
Vinette said of those seeking entry to Canada under the exemption, about half were turned away, mostly because they weren’t fully vaccinated or received a vaccine not cleared for use in Canada.
Only those Canadian citizens and permanent residents who have gone two weeks since a full course of one of the four COVID-19 vaccines approved by Health Canada — Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, AstraZeneca-Oxford or Johnson & Johnson — are exempt from quarantine.
Travellers must also use the ArriveCAN app or online portal to submit their vaccine information and the results of a negative COVID-19 test taken no more than three days before departure.
“The big thing for folks to understand is what qualifies as a fully exempted traveller under Canada’s definition,” Vinette said in an interview Friday.
“It is about having had one of the four Health Canada vaccines. It’s about having had the full regimens, or both shots, and having had 14 days pass after your second shot.”
Of those seeking the exemption, about half had either had only one shot, received their second dose less than 14 days before arrival or got a vaccine other than the four that have been approved in Canada, he said.
“I’m not suggesting that people are trying to, you know, squeeze themselves in; it’s more a question, I think, of folks not understanding the rules.”
Vinette said the agency is anxious to make sure people understand what has changed and what has not in order to prevent excessive delays or tie-ups at border control points.
He said the delays have not been extensive, except for at busy border crossings like Windsor-Detroit, Fort Erie, Ont., and the Pacific Highway crossing in B.C., where peak wait times were sometimes close to 45 minutes.
The ArriveCAN portal can be accessed either via the Apple or Android app or online via the federal government’s website at canada.ca. Travellers must use the latest version of the app, which was updated when the rules changed.
What’s happening across Canada
As of 7 a.m. ET on Saturday, Canada had reported 1,419,964 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with 5,438 considered active. National deaths stood at 26,419. More than 41.8 million COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered so far across the country, according to CBC’s vaccine tracker.
In British Columbia, health officials announced 45 more cases and no deaths Friday.
There were no deaths reported Friday in Alberta, either. The province said there were 52 new cases of the virus.
Earlier on Friday, the Calgary Stampede officially kicked off, returning after being cancelled last year for the first time in almost a century due to the pandemic.
New safety measures include cutting daily attendance in half, sanitation stations for the public and enhanced cleaning throughout the grounds. Staff and volunteers are required to wear masks and get COVID-19 rapid tests.
WATCH | Calgary Stampede returns with COVID-19 safety measures:
Saskatchewan on Friday reported 36 new cases of COVID-19 and one death — a person from the province’s northwest region.
Officials in Manitoba reported 72 new cases and three additional deaths on Friday.
Ontario registered 183 new cases of COVID-10 and nine new deaths on Friday, a day after government officials announced that more than 50 per cent of adults in the province have had two vaccine doses. The province will further lift COVID-19 restrictions ahead of schedule on July 16, allowing for larger indoor and outdoor gatherings and for gyms and indoor dining to re-open.
In Quebec, health officials on Friday reported 77 new cases, as well as one additional death that occurred prior to the last 24 hours.
WATCH | Bioethicist Kerry Bowman explains why he is concerned about Quebec’s vaccine passport plan:
In Atlantic Canada, Nova Scotia logged one more case on Friday.
New Brunswick reported no new cases or deaths from COVID-19 on Friday. The province has vaccinated 79.1 per cent of its eligible population with at least one dose and 47.5 per cent with two doses.
Newfoundland and Labrador on Friday confirmed two more cases of COVID-19 aboard the Iver Ambition cargo ship, currently anchored in Conception Bay.
This brings the total of confirmed positive cases aboard the ship to 14 of its crew members. All of them are still isolating on the ship, and there is no risk to the community, the Department of Health said in a media release.
Prince Edward Island reported no new cases on Friday. Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Heather Morrison said point-of-entry testing rules have been adjusted so that a COVID-19 test will not be required for anyone from within Atlantic Canada who has a PEI Pass. There has been no decision yet on how people from outside Atlantic Canada will be handled once they can enter the province with a PEI Pass as of July 18.
The province has also dropped the mandatory wearing of masks indoors. People will not be required to wear masks in most indoor spaces, but they will be encouraged to, based on vaccine status, personal heath status and the setting, Morrison said.
Across the North on Thursday, there were no new cases reported in Nunavut or the Northwest Territories, but Yukon recorded 10 new infections.
With COVID-19 restrictions easing, some fortunate Northwest Territories residents have been able to access Yukon’s stunning and remote Ivvavik National Park for the first time in over a year.
Last year, Ivvavik was shut down completely due to COVID-19 restrictions in Yukon, but now residents of the neighbouring territory are being welcomed back.
WATCH | Lucky few travellers from N.W.T. visit Yukon’s Ivvavik National Park:
What’s happening around the world
As of early Saturday, more than 186.1 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported around the world, according to a tracker from Johns Hopkins University. The reported global death toll stood at more than four million.
In Europe, Malta is now requiring proof of vaccination for visitors to the Mediterranean island nation in hopes of stemming the latest rise in coronavirus infections.
Starting Wednesday, visitors to Malta must present a COVID-19 vaccination certificate that is recognized by Maltese health authorities, meaning certificates issued by Malta, the European Union or the United Kingdom.
Children aged 5-12 only need to present a negative PCR test, while those under age five are exempt from any obligation.
In Asia, South Korea has set a new high in daily COVID-19 cases for the third straight day as officials prepare to enforce the strongest physical distancing restrictions in the greater capital area.
The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency said Saturday that more than 1,000 of the 1,378 new cases were from capital Seoul and nearby Gyeonggi Province and Incheon, a region where officials from Monday will clamp down on private social gatherings of three or more people from 6 p.m. local time. Nightclubs and churches will close, visitors will be banned at nursing homes and hospitals and weddings and funerals will be limited to family-only gatherings.
In the Americas, California will require that masks be worn at schools when classrooms open this fall, despite new guidance issued Friday from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that says vaccinated teachers and students don’t need to wear face coverings inside school buildings.
Ahead of new school guidelines expected next week, health officials in California said Friday that requiring face coverings will allow all schools to reopen this fall for full in-person instruction.
California Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly says that not all schools can accommodate physical distancing of at least two metres or more, so the best preventative measure is indoor