In Montreal, a sign advises passersby to take precautions against the spread of COVID_19.
Aug 09, 2021 —
Americans began crossing the border into Canada for non-essential travel yesterday; the first time such travel was allowed in more than year.
Vaccinated Americans who test negative for COVID-19 can now visit Canada under new rules that began yesterday.
Patrick Saunders-Hastings is an epidemiologist in Ottawa. He spoke with Ryan Finnerty about what Americans can expect while visiting Canada. Spoiler: Don’t forget a mask.
Saunders-Hastings: Our limits on social gatherings have for, all intents and purposes, effectively been removed. We still have some upper limits, but for day to day life, they really aren’t coming into play. Even most professional sporting events have been reopened to vaccinated individuals.
I think you can reasonably expect to be required to wear a mask indoors or if you are dining outdoors as you are being shown to your seat, you would also be required to wear a mask. But our case rates are fairly low, almost across the country, with some upticks related with the transmission of the Delta barrier, like we’re seeing in the United States, albeit at a lower rate.
But given the degree of what we call vaccine breakthrough infections, even without the illness or serious illness among fully vaccinated individuals, we are still encouraging mask use, especially when gathering indoors in a public setting. But as it relates to public health restrictions, province by province, we’re seeing those being effectively slashed, as we reach our least restrictive guidelines, really since the pandemic began.
Finnerty: Here in the US, we’ve seen in some parts of the country a lot of pushback against wearing a mask, and even a lot of resistance to get vaccinated. Has there been a similar dynamic in Canada?
Saunders-Hastings: We have pockets of that as well. I think it’s everywhere. And I understand that in the summer, it’s not always the most pleasant to wear a mask on the heat.
Our coverage is a bit higher than what we’re seeing in the United States right now. So generally, about 80% of individuals have at least one vaccine. Closer to about 70%, depending on the province, you’re talking about might have had both vaccines. What I would emphasize just as it relates to the Delta variant in the vaccine itself, is that we are still seeing the infection being able to be established in vaccinated individuals.
Now there’s less clinical illness. So if you get the infection, you’re less likely to develop symptoms, and you’re far less likely to get a severe infection, because it’s much less likely to transmit in the lungs. But you are still able to transmit it to other people. And so that’s where even once vaccinated, we’re seeing this sort of encouragement for mask use.
Finnerty: Do you think Americans will be welcome in Canada or are people still kind of hesitant about international travel?
Saunders-Hastings: So I think it’s variable. I think what I would say and I certainly can’t speak for the sort of broader feeling in Canada. But I think one common view is that we are fairly welcoming to vaccinated individuals that are willing to mask when and where appropriate.
So those that are willing to behave responsibly, and have done what they need to do to protect themselves and those around them, I think are generally welcome. Those that maybe are not as willing to take those steps to protect the public health and are at a higher risk of seeding infection in a particular community, I think that’s where there might be a bit more hesitancy.
But generally speaking, in terms of our local restrictions being relaxed, our case rates are fairly low. We certainly want to keep it that way and we want to see them continue to decrease. But I think having foreign nationals that have been vaccinated and are generally doing what they need to do to protect themselves, shouldn’t necessarily put that at significant risk.
Finnerty: Was there any consternation about the US maintaining travel restrictions on Canadians, and not reciprocating the relaxing that the Trudeau government instituted?
Saunders-Hastings: I suspect there might have been in some pockets. And again, I’m not speaking of political officials here. But I think there was probably a reasonable expectation of reciprocity, especially given that our case rates are much lower, and our vaccine rates much higher.
So I think, to the same extent that foreign travel to Canada would not be putting those case rates at risk. I think the same would be true for Canada to us travel. And so I believe there’s another decision coming up in the United States in a few weeks. I do hope to see some of those restrictions relaxed as well.
I think from a science point of view, evidence would point to relaxing them, but then when we add politics to that, it can become much more complicated.
Originally Appeared On: https://www.northcountrypublicradio.org/news/story/44280/20210809/what-to-expect-when-visiting-canada