OTTAWA — Canada will take its first, limited step toward rolling back border restrictions next month, the country’s health minister said on Wednesday.
Fully vaccinated Canadian citizens and permanent residents who fly home will no longer have to quarantine at a government-designated airport hotel until they receive a negative result for a Covid-19 test administered upon arrival, the minister, Patty Hajdu, told a news conference. Instead, those air travelers will be allowed to isolate at home.
Then, assuming that they test negative, they will no longer have to complete the balance of the 14-day quarantine period.
While Ms. Hajdu said that the government hoped to make the change during the first week of July, she said the timing would depend on vaccination and infection rates as well as discussions with provincial governments and the border agency.
When the government announced the mandatory hotel stay in February, it suggested that the bill would come to about 2,000 Canadian dollars for a stay that would generally extend to three nights.
Although most hotels proved to be significantly less expensive than that, and test results generally arrived more quickly than anticipated, the mandatory stay was unpopular with many travelers. Some people have tried to avoid the hotel quarantine program and had to pay a fine of 3,000 Canadian dollars (recently increased to 5,000) as a consequence.
The announcement fell well short of a recommendation from a federal advisory panel to simply shut down the hotel program for everyone.
Under the new plan, foreign visitors and Canadians who are not vaccinated or partly vaccinated will still be required to use the hotel system and quarantine for 14 days. All travelers, regardless of their vaccination status, will also have to produce a recent negative test result before boarding any flight to Canada.
Because Canada has focused on getting at least one shot into every citizen’s arm, relatively few people will be able to take advantage of the new rules when they come into effect. While 68 percent of all Canadian adults have been given at least one shot, only 7 percent are fully vaccinated.
Currently, all nonessential travelers, including tourists who are neither Canadian nor permanent residents, are barred from entry. Canada’s tourism and restaurant industries have been calling for a broad reopening of the border between Canada and the United States. But on Wednesday officials downplayed suggestions that might come soon.
“It is better now to be slow and cautious, to use the best science and evidence, to be careful in our approach, so that we can have a sustained success,” Ms. Hajdu said.