News this week that fully vaccinated U.S. citizens and permanent residents will be allowed into Canada as of Aug. 9, joined by the rest of the world Sept. 7, was welcomed by officials with both the Surrey Board of Trade and the South Surrey & White Rock Chamber of Commerce as a move that will bring tourism back to the region.
“I think it’s really, really positive news, especially for our local businesses, because we are a border community – we rely upon tourists coming in from the U.S. to be patrons of our local businesses,” chamber executive director Ritu Khanna said Tuesday.
“I think it’s a welcome and important change for us as a community and for the businesses for sure.”
Still lacking, however, SBOT CEO Anita Huberman said in a news release – and Khanna agreed – is a plan for fully vaccinated Canadians to travel south or internationally.
The Department of Homeland Security announced Wednesday that the U.S. border will remain closed until at least Aug. 21.
“We know that travel must be based on health and science, but a tentative plan including what the US government is thinking in terms of travel requirements is needed,” Huberman said in the release.
“That’s an important step that we look forward to as well,” Khanna told Peace Arch News.
“I know that our businesses, having (had) conversations with them in the past, that they have seen a drop – of course, just generally because of the pandemic, but when the borders closed up, that does have a definite impact.”
Border barriers have been in place since March of last year to help limit the spread of COVID-19.
Last week, Premier John Horgan said reopening the border to non-essential travellers from the U.S. next month would be a “massive undertaking” for the province, but that B.C. is ready for it.
Horgan told a news conference Friday (July 16) that he is confident British Columbians will remain safe if the border reopens, because of the vaccination rate in the province.
About 80 per cent of eligible residents have received their first vaccine dose and about 50 per cent are fully vaccinated, with two doses.
Khanna said it’s important as the restrictions ease that local residents and visitors alike continue to respect the protocols that individual businesses have in place.
“I think when people are coming from different communities, not just outside of South Surrey/White Rock, but of course now from across the border, that’s our hope… because each one is figuring it out in terms of their comfort level within the space and their staff and all those things as well,” she said.
Monday’s announcement came two weeks after the Canada Border Services Agency began waiving quarantine rules for fullyvaccinated Canadian citizens and permanent residents.
Federal officials said starting the second week of August, the 14-day quarantine requirement will be waived for eligible travellers who currently reside in the U.S. and have received a full course of a COVID-19 vaccine approved for use in Canada.
Children under 12 who are accompanied by fully vaccinated and eligible family members will also be exempt from quarantine, provided they wear a mask in public places and avoid indoor group settings.
All travellers will still be required to submit a negative COVID-19 test result and proof of vaccination prior to arrival by way of the ArriveCAN smartphone app or web portal, but post-travel test results will no longer be necessary.
Canada Border Services Agency officials will also be subjecting random travellers to a mandatory molecular test upon arrival.
“This strategy allows the government of Canada to continue monitoring variants of concern in Canada and vaccine effectiveness,” a government release said.
As of Aug. 9, air travellers will no longer be required to spend the first three nights of their quarantine at a government-approved hotel.
“However, all travellers must still provide a quarantine plan and be prepared to quarantine, in case it is determined at the border that they do not meet the necessary requirements.”
– files from James McCarten, The Canadian Press