With the official arrival of summer fast approaching, it’s become easier to return home following a trip to Canada. Last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) dropped the pre-arrival Covid testing requirement for air travelers coming into the United States. That means Canadian visitors and returning Americans don’t have to prove that they are Covid-negative in order to board a plane to the U.S.
This week, the Canadian government announced a change of its own. As of Monday, June 20, travelers over the age of 12 will no longer be required to prove they are vaccinated against Covid-19 before boarding a plane or train in Canada.
The rub is that this rule applies for domestic travel within Canada, but not for entry into the country. For Americans visiting Canada, essentially nothing has changed.
Everyone who enters Canada must still download the ArriveCAN app and complete the questionnaire within 72 hours of arrival. Vaccinated travelers must upload proof of vaccination to the app in advance of arrival, while unvaccinated Americans and returning Canadians are required to quarantine. Travelers are considered fully vaccinated when they have received at least two doses of an accepted Covid-19 vaccine.
For travel within Canada, masks are still required on planes, trains and other forms of public transportation.
Like their counterparts in the United States, tourism industry officials in Canada have pushed the government to remove any and all frictions and restrictions that they say are dragging down visitor numbers. “Despite this month’s increase in U.S. residents taking trips into Canada through land ports, the number of trips remains at half (50.8%) of the U.S. residents who arrived by automobile during the same month in 2019,” the Tourism Industry Association of Ontario (TIAO) said in a statement.
The main bone of contention has been the ArriveCAN app, which launched in April 2020 primarily as a contact tracing app, and has been used throughout the pandemic, mainly by Canadian travelers, to report mandatory travel, contact and quarantine information when they re-enter the country. Since the border reopened to Americans last summer, U.S. travelers have been required to use the ArriveCAN app when entering Canada.
Tourism officials say requiring travelers to use the ArriveCAN app is stifling tourism, but the Canadian government says the app isn’t going anywhere for the time being.
Using the ArriveCAN app is relatively fast and straightforward, taking only a few minutes to complete. Travelers can download the app and start entering their information within 72 hours of their arrival date. Those who are fully vaccinated or have recovered from Covid-19 can use their smartphone camera to scan their vaccination record card or proof of prior infection, or they can manually enter their information into the app or on the web site. Once a traveler has completed entering their information, the ArriveCAN app provides a receipt with a QR code that must be shown at the Canadian border.
The Covid vaccination rate is a few percentage points higher in Canada than in the United States. More than eight in 10 Canadians (81.7%) are fully vaccinated, with more than half (55.5%) of those over 12 years old also having received a booster shot, according to the Canadian government’s vaccine tracker. Comparatively, 78.1% of the total American population is fully vaccinated, and less than half (48.8%) of those 12 an up have received a booster, according to CDC data.
But for the grimmest of metrics, the gap is enormous. Canada has tallied fewer than 42,000 deaths due to Covid-19 since the pandemic began, while the United States has surpassed one million deaths from the disease.
On another measurement, the two countries are more aligned. Canada currently has a Level 3 travel health warning from the CDC, signifying “high” Covid-19 levels — just like the U.S.