(AFP) — Canada has started easing pandemic travel restrictions for its citizens, but Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Thursday it will be “quite a while” before unvaccinated foreign tourists are allowed into the country.
“I can tell you right now, that’s not going to happen for quite a while,” Trudeau said when asked about it.
“We need to continue to ensure that the safety of Canadians of all the sacrifices that so many people have made over the past many, many months, are not for nothing,” he said.
The prime minister, however, signalled changes to the rules “in the coming weeks” that could allow fully vaccinated tourists to visit Canada. He did not provide details.
Pressure on Ottawa from the ailing tourism sector has been rising to relax travel restrictions and reopen Canada’s border with the United States — the world’s longest — which has been closed to non-essential travellers since March 2020.
But Trudeau said his administration does not wish to jeopardise hard-fought progress to contain the novel coronavirus that saw daily case counts plummet in recent weeks, as domestic vaccination rates soared.
As of this week, Canada waived quarantine requirements for citizens and permanent residents returning from abroad who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
The border closure, which has been renewed each month by agreement between Ottawa and Washington, is set to remain in place until at least July 21.