Some major changes to who can and cannot cross the Canada-U.S. border go into effect today.
Romantic partners who have been together more than one year, siblings, grandparents, grandchildren and those seeking entry on compassionate grounds are now able to apply to enter Canada.
Ottawa is lifting some cross-border travel restrictions after receiving backlash from families who haven’t been able to see their loved ones for month, but Health Minister Patti Hajdu says the government is in no hurry to completely reopen the border.
Hajdu told AM800’s The Afternoon News that it was clear a solution needed to be found in the short-term.
“It became clear that this pandemic is really dragging on internationally and that we likely will have strong border measures for quite some time. So we needed to deal with some pressing categories of travellers in a way that was compassionate and humane and that addressed this long standing public health crisis that we’re in,” she says.
Hajdu says a 14 day quarantine is still mandatory, but exceptions may be granted for compassionate visits.
“Sometimes people don’t have the 14 days to quarantine when they get a notification, for example, that a loved one is dying. In that case, with the approval of the local public health unit and the province, people may be allowed to leave quarantine early with very specific and stringent requirements,” she says.
Hajdu says the changes apply to a small number of people and shouldn’t overload the province.
“I don’t think any of us are in a hurry to open up international borders to non-essential travel until we have a better sense of how to manage any kind of increase in importations. The last thing we want to do is add additional pressures to provinces without being able to really understand how we mitigate those importations,” she adds.
Specific details on who qualifies, what documents are required and how to apply will be released today.
The Canada-U.S. border has been closed to non-essential travel since March 21 and is expected to remain closed until at least October 21.