As the holiday season approaches, the spread of COVID-19 in Canada has continued to worsen. Hospitals in Ontario called on Premier Ford to lock down COVID-heavy red tier regions of the province, as there were record-high case counts and hospitalizations this week. However, despite the calls for a lockdown, Ford has not committed at this time to an increase in the restrictions already in place. The Ontario Hospital Association called for new shutdowns in a statement made to the media:
“Ontario remains firmly caught in the grasp of a major second wave of COVID-19. Daily infection is now above 2,000 new cases per day. Hospitalization is increasing rapidly, as is the occupancy of intensive care units.”
There is concern that Canadians will flout the current public health measures and congregate for holiday gatherings, which in turn will cause a higher spike in cases following the holiday season. The government is urging to Canadians to follow public health guidance in order to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Despite the rise in infections in Canada as a whole, there has been some positive news on the vaccine front. According to the Public Health Agency of Canada, Canada expects to have enough doses of the COVID-19 vaccine to inoculate every Canadian who wants to be vaccinated by the end of September 2021. This week, the first vaccines arrived, and Canadians are starting to receive them. However, the rollout of the vaccines is expected to be slow for the first few months of 2021 while production of the vaccine ramps up.
As the vaccine is just being rolled out, it seems as though the Canada-US border will remain closed to non-essential travel until well into 2021. The Canadian Border Services Agency announced this week that the border closure has been extended until January 21, 2021, officially closing the border until at least that date.
Even once most Canadians are vaccinated, it is likely that there will still be travel restrictions. The Canadian government is concerned with allowing travel to nations that do not have access to the vaccine. According to an investigation done by Reuters, some poorer nations around the world will not have access to the vaccine until 2024, as “rich countries” with 14% of the world’s population have secured 53% of the available doses. If other countries are not vaccinated, the Canadian government could restrict travel to those nations until they either have access to the vaccine, or they have negligible levels of COVID-19 cases in the country in question.
Logically it may follow that if you are vaccinated, you do not need to worry about contracting COVID-19, so travel should be allowed to every country. However, at this point, the government is unsure of the absolute efficacy of the vaccine, such that it may be possible to become infected even after vaccination. Policies could change as more studies are done on the effectiveness of the vaccine. So in essence, the possibility of Canada opening its borders hinges less on our internal vaccine efforts and more on a global vaccination effort. This may bode poorly for those looking to begin travelling again once vaccinated, as it seems our borders could remain effectively closed well into 2021.
Make sure you stay updated on regional restrictions and regulations before you make travel arrangements. If you are looking to travel, make sure you qualify as essential or prepare an exemption request. Depending on where you are going, you may also need a 14-day quarantine plan. If you have questions about where you can travel, please do not hesitate to contact us.
The immigration lawyers at Garson Immigration Law are continuing to monitor the immigration fallout in relation to COVID-19 on both sides of the border and will provide updates as the situation develops. If you have any questions about your potential classification as essential or about how you should comply with the changing regulations, do not hesitate to reach out to us online or by calling us at 416-321-2860.