FILE – Most lanes remain closed at the Peace Arch border crossing into the U.S. from Canada, where the shared border has been closed for nonessential travel in an effort to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, Thursday, May 7, 2020, in Blaine, Wash. The restrictions at the border took effect March 21, while allowing trade and other travel deemed essential to continue. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

FILE – Most lanes remain closed at the Peace Arch border crossing into the U.S. from Canada, where the shared border has been closed for nonessential travel in an effort to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, Thursday, May 7, 2020, in Blaine, Wash. The restrictions at the border took effect March 21, while allowing trade and other travel deemed essential to continue. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

Horgan hints U.S. border could open this summer, but ‘uncomfortable’ with B.C. vaccine passports

Discussions with the federal government about allowing vaccinated tourists into the country continue

The premier of B.C. is hinting that the border could open sometime this summer, earlier than the province previously planned for.

“We are in discussions with the federal government on their plans to relieve restrictions at the border,” said Premier John Horgan at an unrelated press conference Wednesday (June 9).

“But I’m confident that we’re on the right track. I know the case counts are very favourable, hospitalizations are down, immunizations are up.”

Horgan said he was also in discussions with Alaskan and Washington State representatives about their concerns regarding an open border with Canada. While B.C. has given out more first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine than either state at 74.5 per cent (for 18+), with Washington State at 71 per cent for first doses and Alaska at 59 per cent, America as a whole has a much higher rate of fully immunized residents. In Washington State, 61 per cent are fully immunized while 51 per cent are in Alaska.

B.C. was not planning to recommend even Canada-wide travel until July 1, but Horgan said that there were a variety of view points among the provinces and it was unlikely to open right away.

“It’s important to note that not every jurisdiction across the country has the same view on this matter. Some want to open up tomorrow, others don’t want to until September. I think somewhere between those two poles is where we’ll land,” he said.

On the tourism front, Horgan said he was continuing discussions with the federal government about allowing vaccinated tourists into the country. The feds announced earlier on Wednesday that starting in July, fully vaccinated Canadian citizens and permanent residents won’t need to complete a full 14-day quarantine upon returning to the country.

READ MORE: Feds to lift 14-day quarantine requirement for fully vaccinated Canadian travellers

Tourism, he noted, was “very, very important to our wellbeing as a province” but that the provincial government didn’t want to throw away the progress B.C. has made against COVID by allowing in tourists too early.

While the prime minister has spoken to the importance of ensuring visitors to Canada are fully vaccinated, Horgan echoed the province’s top doctor in saying that a provincial vaccine passport is not likely to come about.

“We’re not enthusiastic about it quite frankly. This is private health information at the end of the day,” he said. A vaccine passport is not without precedent within Canada however; Manitoba has launched an immunization card that will allow fully vaccinated residents to avoid the province’s own two-week isolation period upon returning home.

READ MORE: Trudeau says government looking at plan for return of international tourists

However, Horgan said that immunization rates in B.C. are high enough that he doesn’t believe the province needs such a system.

“When we look at the data it’s clear the vast majority of British Columbians are enthusiastic — almost 75 per cent first doses for those 18 and older,” he said.

“So, we’re confident we will get in to the 85-90 per cent range without incentives.”

Businesses, however, are free to impose rules as they see fit.

“Businesses make their own choices — no shoes, no shirt, no service — everyone has seen that sign.”


@katslepian

katya.slepian@bpdigital.ca

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