Vancouver airport hires more staff as border restrictions ease for some Canada-bound travellers

A unique look at the Vancouver International Airport. (Chopper 9/Pete Cline)

VANCOUVER — The strict COVID-19 border restrictions that have been in place since early 2020 are easing up for a specific group of travellers and the Vancouver International Airport is anticipating an influx of arrivals.

Effective July 5, Canadian citizens and permanent residents will be able to enter Canada without being required to quarantine for two weeks upon arrival, if they’ve been fully vaccinated with a federally approved vaccine. Eligible air travellers will also be exempt from spending part of their quarantine in a government-approved hotel.

Travellers must log their vaccination details online using the ArriveCAN app or web portal before their departure. They must also have proof of a negative COVID-19 test that is less than three day’s old.

Anyone arriving in Canada before July 5 must still quarantine for 14-days, says the Canada Border Services Agency.

“It was long overdue. This should have been done months ago,” says Len Saunders, a Washington State Immigrations Attorney who holds Canadian and American citizenship. He plans on crossing into B.C. this week to visit family for the first time in 16 months.

“A lot of Canadians have not wanted to go north if they live in the U.S. because of the 14-day quarantine. So, I think the Canadian government has taken a step in the right direction.”

The quarantine exemption does not extend to foreign nationals, but most of them aren’t allowed to visit Canada right now anyway.

“If you were unable to come to Canada on July 4 of this year, you can’t come in on July 5 — there’s been no change to all of the restrictions and the provisions that have been issued on that front,” said Denis Vinette, CBSA vice-president, travellers branch.

“However, for those that can come to Canada, it’s a very cautious, early first step in starting to delay or remove some requirements at the border.”

In June, American Hollie Harris got married to a B.C. resident in a ceremony at Peace Arch Historical State Park along the Canada-U.S. border. The only way the newlyweds have been able to spend time together is by meeting at the park. Harris feels anyone who is fully vaccinated should be exempt from the mandatory quarantine.

“It shouldn’t matter whether you’re Canadian or American. What’s important is that you’re fully vaccinated. Me being fully vaccinated now and still not able to cross the border is frustrating.”

Meanwhile, the Vancouver International Airport has re-hired staff in anticipation of an influx of incoming travellers. Canadians and permanent residents flying into the country are urged to know what customs officials require from them upon arrival.

“The most important thing is that people pre-register for their mandatory arrival (COVID-19) test. You can get the link our website,” says Robyn McVicker, vice-president of passenger journey for the Vancouver Aiport Authority.

The mutual travel restrictions between Canada and the United States, which prohibit all discretionary travel between the two countries while continuing to allow the movement of trade, essential workers and international students, are due to expire July 21. However, there’s no guarantee the restriction, which was first enacted on March 20, 2020, won’t be extended.

“It’s tough. I wish we could just be together and be able to cross back and forth,” says Harris.

With files from The Canadian Press, CTV News