Wed, 04 Aug 2021

Trudeau draws criticism as borders remain closed till July 21

Robert Besser
23 Jun 2021, 02:56 GMT+10

OTTAWA, Canada: Despite pressure from companies and the tourism industry to ease the nation's travel ban, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has extended the ban on nonessential travel with the United States and the rest of the world until July 21, officials said on Friday.

Trudeau said the border would remain largely shut until 75 percent of Canadians have received their first dose of the coronavirus vaccine and 20 percent had been given both shots.

"Even a fully vaccinated individual can pass on COVID-19 to someone who is not vaccinated," Trudeau told reporters, saying Canada needed to avoid "any further massive waves."

Although Trudeau said Canada had achieved the first target, official data released after he spoke showed 73.4 percent had received their first shot and only 5.5 percent had been fully vaccinated with both shots.

The extended travel ban comes after the western province of Alberta revealed plans to fully reopen on July 1, after 70 percent of eligible Albertans received their first vaccination dose.

The travel ban does not affect trade in goods, but Statistics Canada said total exports of services in 2020 compared with 2019 fell by 17.7 percent and imports of services plunged by 24.0 percent, in part due to the border closures. Travel and transportation services were particularly hard hit.

"The inability of the U.S. and Canadian governments to reach an agreement on alleviating border restrictions ... is simply unacceptable," said U.S. Representatives Brian Higgins and Bill Huizenga, co-chairs of the Canada-U.S. Interparliamentary Group.

The United States is Canada's largest trading partner.

Harley Finkelstein, president of Canadian e-commerce company Shopify Inc, tweeted that the extended border closure was the wrong decision. "We need to open the border for fully vaccinated travellers immediately," he wrote.

Also, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce - a national group that advocates for businesses regretted what it said was Ottawa's excessive caution.

"All of the science would say we should be moving ahead to reopen the border. We don't even have a plan at this point," said Perrin Beatty, the group's president and chief executive.

Ottawa will reveal on Monday how it plans to begin easing measures for fully vaccinated Canadians.

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