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Party With The U.S., Eh?: Canada To Ease Border Restrictions

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

Canada is taking its first steps towards easing pandemic border restrictions. The changes will apply to fully vaccinated Canadians and others with family ties to Canada. Even so, most restrictions remain in place despite growing discontent expressed by U.S. lawmakers in border states. From Montreal, Emma Jacobs reports.

EMMA JACOBS, BYLINE: Canada has required a 14-day quarantine for travelers entering Canada during the pandemic. But, says Health Minister Patty Hajdu...

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PATTY HAJDU: Beginning on July 5, fully vaccinated travelers who are permitted to enter Canada will no longer be subject to the federal requirement to quarantine.

JACOBS: People permitted to enter Canada right now include Canadian citizens, permanent residents, plus some of their close family members who are not Canadian citizens. Gianna Formica, with Faces of Advocacy, a group representing separated families, says the change will make it easier for her and others to see loved ones.

GIANNA FORMICA: We're relieved. This is something we've been waiting for for a long time.

JACOBS: Even though fully vaccinated, Formica, an American university student, spoke by phone from quarantine in Montreal, where she had come to visit her boyfriend. The quarantine requirement has made visiting him tough.

FORMICA: We've lost so much time over the course of the year.

JACOBS: Last week, Canada announced restrictions barring most nonessential travel across the border will be extended through July 21. This was met with some of the loudest protests yet by American lawmakers in border states. In a statement, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York criticized what he called endless delays and confusion, adding that he, quote, "won't rest until the northern border is safely and effectively opened for vaccinated New Yorkers." New York Democratic Congressman Brian Higgins on Twitter used a vulgarity to describe the latest month-long delay. Reporters also pressed Minister Hajdu for more clarity on the Canadian government's benchmarks for a wider reopening.

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HAJDU: We'll proceed with caution. This is what Canadians expect of us. They expect us to not squander those hard-won gains over the last year and a half.

JACOBS: She brought up concerns about the spread of the Delta variant of the coronavirus because, while nearly three-quarters of eligible Canadians have received at least one dose of a vaccine, fewer than 15% are fully vaccinated.

For NPR News, I'm Emma Jacobs in Montreal.

(SOUNDBITE OF HVOB SONG, "GHOST") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.