MONTREAL – Canada won’t reopen its border with the United States for non-essential travel, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Monday as the number of new COVID-19 cases continued to fall across much of the country.
Demand for a reopening plan has increased as vaccine coverage has increased on both sides of the border. The White House said last week it hadn’t decided when or how to reopen the border with Canada, but corporate groups and lawmakers, including Vermont Governor Phil Scott and New York MP Brian Higgins, have urged both countries to submit a plan.
Trudeau said Monday that while many people are eager to reopen the border, any relaxation of restrictions must be done carefully and with the safety of Canadians in mind.
“We are on the right track, but we will base our decisions on the interests of Canadians and not on the wishes of other countries,” he said at a press conference in Ottawa.
Trudeau said 75 percent of Canadians would need to be vaccinated and daily cases across the country would have to continue to decline before his government was ready to relax travel restrictions.
“We all want to reopen, we all want to travel again to see friends, to go on vacation, to travel,” he said. “But we don’t want to have to close again, we want to have to tighten again because there is another wave.”
Trudeau’s words came as Ontario and Quebec reported the lowest numbers of new COVID-19 infections in months. Quebec reported fewer than 300 new COVID-19 cases for the first time since mid-September, with 276 new infections and one further death attributable to the novel coronavirus.
Several regions in Quebec have been downgraded from red to orange in the province’s pandemic alert system, allowing high school students to return to face-to-face classes and gyms and reopen indoor restaurants full-time.
Ontario reported 916 new cases of COVID-19, the lowest daily total since February. The last time this province reported fewer cases was on February 17, with 847 new infections.
Many Ontarians aged 80 and older were able to increase their second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine on Monday after the government announced last week that it would reduce the minimum interval between vaccinations to four weeks. However, some health units said they could not immediately offer earlier second doses due to supply issues.
Meanwhile, Nunavut’s chief public health officer said Monday the area would ease restrictions in the hard-hit Iqaluit later this week thanks to falling cases and high vaccine intake.
The case counter also continued its downward trend in Nova Scotia, where 17 new infections were reported.
Further west, Manitoba said it has approved the administration of Pfizer BioNTech or Moderna vaccines as a booster to residents who received Oxford-AstraZeneca for their first dose.
Dr. Joss Reimer, who leads the province’s vaccine launch, said the decision was made following the results of a study from Spain and similar decisions in Quebec and elsewhere.
Unlike some other provinces, Manitoba continues to struggle with high COVID-19 infection rates. The province reported more than 300 new infections on Monday, and Dr. Brent Roussin, the provincial chief health officer, said there were still too many people in intensive care, putting the health system under pressure.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published on May 31, 2021.