Significant travel restrictions remain in place in jurisdictions across the country, but the steady increase in vaccinations may mean Canadians could be able to carry out their domestic vacation plans for at least part of the summer.
“I actually feel fairly optimistic,” said Dr. Lynora Saxinger, an infectious diseases specialist at University of Alberta Hospital. “I don’t know if I’d be planning something for June, but looking into late July and August, I’d be surprised if we didn’t see an ability to travel within your province for sure, and very likely between provinces.“
Saxinger said that even if a vaccine rollout is not complete, experience from elsewhere would suggest that once there’s 50 to 60 per cent vaccination coverage of adults, transmission drops a lot more.
“At the moment, it actually looks pretty promising because the rate of vaccination is going up beautifully right now,” she said.
Dr. Philippe Lagace-Wiens, an assistant professor of medical microbiology at the University of Manitoba, agreed that there is “some light at the end of the tunnel.”
Assuming that the uptake of vaccines is good, he said he “can’t see a medical reason that we wouldn’t be able to travel between provinces.”
“Particularly if you are willing to call a summer July and August,” he said. “I think that by the time July comes around, the vast majority of individuals … will have access to vaccines. We’re going to be seeing declining rates despite this third wave that’s been persistently holding on to Canada for a while.”
Travel restrictions imposed by provinces
Currently, a number of provinces have imposed restrictions within and between provinces for non-essential travel. In B.C., for example, travelling has been restricted within the province between three regions and residents are being asked not to travel outside the province.
Road signs are up at the Alberta-B.C. border reminding travellers that all travel at this time should be essential.
In Manitoba, residents are being asked to limit 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 being told not to travel outside their region or the province. Travel from Manitoba or Quebec into the province is restricted, minus some exemptions.
Meanwhile, plans to reopen the Atlantic travel bubble, which allowed unrestricted regional travel among the four provinces — New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Labrador and Prince Edward Island — remain on hold due to recent outbreaks of COVID-19 and emerging variants.
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Still, health experts and politicians have suggested some of these travel restrictions could be lifted over the next couple of months.
On Tuesday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said restrictions need to stay in place until at least 75 per cent of the population has at least a first shot and community transmission is better controlled through testing, tracing, and tamping down on spread.
CBC’s vaccine tracker indicates more than 40 per cent of people in Canada have been given at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine.
Trudeau he said continued restrictions throughout May and early June, combined with a strong vaccine uptake, will allow Canadians to enjoy a “slightly better summer.”
B.C. Premier John Horgan has also expressed optimism, saying a couple weeks ago that he hoped “we’ll be in a place where June, July — and most assuredly August and September — will be the best months we’ve had since we turned to the 2020s.”
The Atlantic premiers have also said they hope the bubble will be back in place by summer.
‘Be looking a lot better’
Saxinger said she’s intending to travel in August to see her family in Ontario.
“I actually feel pretty comfortable that things will be looking a lot better, even if the case rates will take a while to come down here,” she said. “So I think that a lot of the restrictions will start to lessen as the case rates come under control.”
Lagace-Wiens stressed that vaccination is the fastest way to get into summer vacation mode and be able to travel.
“I think the fastest way to get back to a country that we can go to see the Rockies and come back and not have to self isolate is is to get immunized. I think that’s the big take-home message.”