OTTAWA, June 18 (Reuters) – Canada is extending the ban on non-essential travel with the United States and the rest of the world until July 21, officials said Friday, sparking frustration among U.S. businesses and lawmakers.
Canada is under pressure from businesses and the tourism industry to relax the ban, which was imposed in March 2020 to help contain the spread of the coronavirus and has been renewed every month since.
But Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has stood firm, saying the border will remain largely closed until 75% of Canadians have received the first of a two-dose coronavirus vaccine and 20% have received both. injections.
Although Trudeau said Canada essentially met the first target, official data released after his intervention showed that 73.4% had received their first blow. Only 5.5% of the eligible population received both injections.
“Even a fully vaccinated person can transmit COVID-19 to someone who is not vaccinated,” Trudeau told reporters, saying Canada must avoid “any further massive waves.”
The extended border closure comes as the western province of Alberta unveiled plans to fully reopen on July 1, lifting virtually all remaining public health restrictions, after 70% of eligible Albertans received their first dose of vaccination.
The travel ban does not affect merchandise trade, but Statistics Canada said total service exports in 2020 compared to 2019 fell 17.7% and services imports plunged 24.0% , in part due to border restrictions. Travel and transportation services were particularly hard hit.
“The failure of the US and Canadian governments to come to an agreement on easing border restrictions (…) is simply unacceptable,” said US representatives Brian Higgins and Bill Huizenga, co-chairs of the Canada-State Inter-Parliamentary Group -United.
The United States is Canada’s largest trading partner.
Harley Finkelstein, president of Canadian e-commerce company Shopify Inc (SHOP.TO), tweeted that the extended border closure was a bad move. “We must immediately open the border to fully vaccinated travelers,” he wrote.
The Canadian Chamber of Commerce – a national group that advocates for business – lamented what it called Ottawa’s excessive caution.
“All the science would say we should move forward to reopen the border. We don’t even have a plan at this point,” said Perrin Beatty, president and CEO of the group.
Ottawa will reveal on Monday how it plans to start easing measures for fully vaccinated Canadians.
Reporting by David Ljunggren
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