Horgan says B.C. ready to reopen border to U.S. travel despite ‘significant concerns’

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B.C. Premier John Horgan speaks on July 16, 2021.

British Columbia’s premier says reopening the border to non-essential travellers from the United States in August would be a “massive undertaking” for the province but one it is ready for.

John Horgan told a news conference Friday that he is confident British Columbians will remain safe if the border reopens because of the levels of vaccination in the province.

He says the federal and provincial governments are following the advice of top health officials as they navigate the dates around reopening the borders.

“We have significant  concerns about being ready, I’ve expressed that to the prime minister, and I have every confidence he’s going to meet those objectives,” said Horgan.

Despite that, Horgan said he felt the August date “met our needs” as opposed to opening the border sooner.

“There was at least one province that felt that urgency was a better course of action and I disagree with that, the majority certainly disagree with that,” he said.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told the premiers Thursday that as long as vaccination rates hold, eligible U.S. travellers could be allowed back in about a month’s time.

He also said the government hopes fully vaccinated travellers from around the world could come to Canada by early September.

While cross-Canada tourism has given Victoria a much-needed boost so far this summer, tourism officials say the announcement is welcome news for local businesses.

“The U.S. traveller does spend 77 per cent more than a Canadian traveller so when the visitors do start to come back, and I think it will take a little bit of time, [the businesses] can move from survival mode into hopefully rebuilding some profitability,” said Destination Greater Victoria CEO Paul Nursey.

“We have to keep in mind here this is going to be a two or three year rebuild for the tourism industry as a whole, this is not going to come back overnight.”

Horgan says that the government would shift if the number of COVID-19 cases increases or there are further changes with the virus.

The news comes as American health officials are warning that the COVID-19 Delta variant could undermine progress.

The U.S. Centers of Disease Control and Prevention reports a seven-day average of about 26,300 new cases per day, a 70 per cent increase from the previous week.

Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the director of the U.S. Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, said the outbreaks are coming in the unvaccinated.

“And communities that are fully vaccinated are generally faring well,” she said.

Los Angeles County residents have been told to wear masks again indoors, regardless of their vaccination status, as the highly transmissible Delta variant spread after California fully reopened its economy on June 15.

Trudeau said the travel exemption would only apply to U.S. citizens and permanent residents who are fully vaccinated. He didn’t say how those travellers would prove their vaccination status.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 16, 2021.

 

The Canadian Press
April Lawrence

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