Significant travel restrictions are still in place in jurisdictions across the country, but a steady increase in vaccinations may mean Canadians could be able to implement their domestic vacation plans for at least part of the summer.
“I’m actually somewhat optimistic,” said Dr. Lenora Sachsinger, an infectious disease specialist at the University of Alberta Hospital. “I don’t know if I’m planning something for June, but looking at late July and August, I’d be surprised if we didn’t see the possibility of travel within your province for sure, and very likely between provinces.“
Even if the vaccine rollout is not completed, Sachsinger said, experience from elsewhere suggests that once vaccination coverage is 50 to 60 percent for adults, transmission of the vaccine drops significantly.
“At the moment, it looks very promising because the vaccination rate is going up beautifully right now,” she said.
Dr. Philip Lagas Wiens, associate professor of medical microbiology at the University of Manitoba, agreed that “there is some light at the end of the tunnel.”
Assuming the uptake of vaccinations is good, he said he “sees no medical reason why we shouldn’t travel between provinces.”
“Especially if you’re ready to name the summer in July and August,” he said. “I think by the time July comes around, the vast majority of individuals … will have the vaccinations. We will see a drop in rates despite this third wave that has continued to hold on to Canada for a while.”
Travel restrictions by provinces
A number of provinces currently have restrictions within and between provinces on non-essential travel. In British Columbia, public health authorities have divided the province into three travel zones and asked residents not to travel outside their region or province.
There are signs on the road at the Alberta – British Columbia border to remind travelers that travel at this time is essential.
In Manitoba, residents are required to restrict travel for essential purposes only and anyone returning to or entering the province must self-isolate (with some exemptions for essential workers).
In Ontario, residents are asked not to travel outside of their region or province. Travel from Manitoba or Quebec to the province is restricted, minus some exemptions.
Meanwhile, plans to reopen the Atlantic Travel Bubble, which allowed unrestricted regional travel between the four provinces — New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Labrador and Prince Edward Island — remain on hold due to the recent COVID-19 outbreak and emerging variables.
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However, health experts and politicians have suggested that some of these travel restrictions could be lifted within the next two months.
On Tuesday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said restrictions must remain in place until at least 75 percent of the population gets at least the first shot and community transmission is better controlled through testing, tracing and mitigating the spread of the disease.
The CBC’s vaccine tracker indicates that more than 40 percent of people in Canada have been given at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.
Trudeau said the ongoing restrictions throughout May and early June, along with a strong uptake of the vaccine, will allow Canadians to enjoy a “slightly better summer.”
British Columbia Prime Minister John Horgan also expressed optimism, saying two weeks ago that he hopes “we’ll be in a place where June and July – and certainly August and September – are the best months we’ve had since turning our twenties.”
Atlantic premiers also said they hope the bubble will be back in place by summer.
“Be a lot better”
Sachsinger said she plans to travel in August to see her family in Ontario.
“I actually feel quite comfortable that things are going to look a lot better, even if the case rates are going to take a while to come down here,” she said. “So I think a lot of the restrictions will start to come down as case rates get under control.”
Lagace-Wiens stressed that vaccination is the fastest way to reach summer vacation status and be able to travel.
“I think the quickest way to get back to a country where we can go to see the Rockies and come back without having to isolate ourselves is to get vaccinated. I think that’s the big message we’re taking home.”