OTTAWA (Reuters) – Canada is extending a ban on non-essential travel with the United States and the rest of the world until July 21, officials said on Friday, prompting frustration from businesses and U.S. legislators.
Canada is under pressure from companies and the tourism industry to ease the ban, which was imposed in March 2020 to help contain spread of the coronavirus and has been renewed on a monthly basis ever since.
But Prime Minister Justin Trudeau stood firm, saying the border would stay largely shut until 75% of Canadians had received the first of a two-dose coronavirus vaccine and 20% had been given both shots.
Although Trudeau said Canada had basically achieved the first target, official data released after he spoke showed 73.4% had received their first shot. Only 5.5% of the eligible population has had both shots.
“Even a fully vaccinated individual can pass on COVID-19 to someone who is not vaccinated,” Trudeau told reporters, saying Canada needed to avoid “any further massive waves.”
The ban, which does not affect trade in goods, is hitting travel operators and the export of services.
“The inability of the U.S. and Canadian governments to reach an agreement on alleviating border restrictions … is simply unacceptable,” said U.S. Representatives Brian Higgins and Bill Huizenga, co-chairs of the Canada-U.S. Interparliamentary Group.
The United States is Canada’s largest trading partner.
The Canadian Chamber of Commerce – a national group that advocates for businesses – lamented what it said was Ottawa’s excessive caution.
“All of the science would say we should be moving ahead to reopen the border. We don’t even have a plan at this point,” said Perrin Beatty, the group’s president and chief executive.
The Business Council of Canada – which groups chief executives – and the Canadian Airports Council both expressed disappointment at the extension.
Ottawa will reveal on Monday how it plans to start easing measures for fully vaccinated Canadians. Officials say quarantine protocols will be scrapped for citizens who had received their second dose.
(Additional reporting by David Shepardson in Washington; Editing by Bill Berkrot, Paul Simao and Jonathan Oatis)