ST. STEPHEN – In a much anticipated move, Health Canada announced Monday, July 19 in a press release that Canada will be opening its border for non-essential travel to fully vaccinated U.S. citizens beginning Monday, Aug. 9.

On the U.S. side, it was announced Wednesday, July 21 border restrictions which apply to land and ferry crossings have been extended until at least 11:59 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 21 due to rising cases in that country.

“On August 9, 2021, at 12:01 a.m. EDT, fully vaccinated citizens and permanent residents of the United States (U.S.), currently residing in the U.S., will be permitted to enter Canada for discretionary (non-essential) travel. Entry to Canada will continue to be prohibited for U.S. travellers who are not fully vaccinated and for all other foreign nationals, unless they already meet an exemption set out in the Orders made under the Quarantine Act,” states the release.

“It’s a start, which is good to see. I’m sure they’ll be watching the numbers and see how it goes,” said St. Stephen Mayor, Al MacEachern.

“We can’t go over there yet, but maybe now we’ve laid that card, they’ll come back with something,” he added.

The change in border crossing comes with a few caveats, one being Americans must use the ArriveCAN portal and provide the required information.

“They’re probably anxious to come over,” said MacEachern of residents in the St. Stephen border community of Calais, Maine.

MacEachern said it would be a “plus for us” if the lost users from the Garcelon Civic Center also started making their way back to Canadian soil.

But it’s the families that have been separated since March 2020 that was foremost on MacEachern’s mind.

“The biggest thing is families that haven’t seen each other,” he said. “Hopefully most of them are able to travel.”

So, what changes happen Monday, Aug. 9?

From the Health Canada website:

Proof of vaccination for foreign nationals permitted entry for discretionary purposes, who enter on the basis of their vaccination status

• Starting August 9, 2021, air carriers will be verifying that the travellers coming to Canada have submitted their information digitally by using the ArriveCAN app or website before they board their flight. Discretionary travellers who are unable to show their ArriveCAN receipt – either on their mobile device or a printed copy – will not be allowed to board their flight to Canada, as they are ineligible to enter Canada. In addition to their ArriveCAN receipt, travellers should carry their actual vaccine certificate with them to show officials at the border entry point.

Discretionary travellers include:

o Fully vaccinated American citizens or permanent residents who reside in the U.S., and are entering from the U.S. for discretionary (non-essential) travel (starting on August 9, 2021); and

o Other fully vaccinated foreign nationals coming to Canada for discretionary (non-essential) purposes (intended to start on September 7, 2021)

• Travellers with a right to entry, (e.g. Canadian citizens and permanent residents), or travellers who qualify for entry under another exemption (e.g. immediate or extended family member) or who are coming to Canada for essential reasons (such as temporary foreign workers, or international students) will not be denied boarding, but will be required to submit information relating to their vaccination status via the ArriveCAN app or website.

And while MacEachern believes it’s a positive move overall, he’s not without some trepidation.

“Every time we allow more people, it’s more risk,” said MacEachern, referencing the Delta variant of COVID-19, “but we have to step in that pool. We could be like this forever otherwise.”

Further to the Aug. 9 travel changes, further restrictions will be lifted Tuesday, Sept. 7, with fully vaccinated international travellers being allowed entry without quarantine protocols should they meet all requirements.

“On September 7, 2021, provided that Canada’s COVID-19 epidemiology remains favourable, the Government intends to open Canada’s borders for discretionary travel by travellers from any country who have been fully vaccinated with Government of Canada-accepted vaccines at least 14 days prior to entering Canada and who meet specific entry requirements,” states the release.