U.S. Extends Land Border Rules to Canada and Mexico

While pressure has mounted on U.S. President Joe Biden and his government to re-open land borders with neighbouring countries, that won’t be the case for at least another month. On September 20, the Biden administration announced the U.S.-Canada and Mexico borders will be closed until at least October 21. The border has been closed since March 2020.

While travel restrictions for Canadians remain strict, the U.S. is looking to ease foreign air travel restrictions, which will allow fully vaccinated foreigners to enter the country. Starting in November, any air traveler coming to the U.S. will need to provide proof of negative COVID-19 taken at least 72 hours prior to boarding and certification of their double-vaccination status. The new policy announced on September 20 will no longer limit travellers from specific countries like the U.K., China and India.

For unvaccinated U.S. citizens, the rules will also be tightened. Any unvaccinated American will need to be tested one day before traveling to the U.S. or leaving. Fully vaccinated passengers will not need to complete a quarantine. The federal government has added fully vaccinated foreign nationals to the ranks of travellers who are once again welcome on Canadian soil. Airlines will be forced to collect contact information from international travellers to allow for contract tracing.

While the U.S. border remains shut to Canadians, all fully vaccinated Americans have been able to travel to Canada since Aug 9. The Canadian border was finally reopened Sept 20 to fully vaccinated American citizens and permanent residents. Americans will need to provide COVID-19 tests that are less than 72 hours old, live in the U.S. and are two weeks past their last COVID-19 shot to be let in. Visitors will also need to upload vaccination details online and will be tested upon arrival.

Canada also eased travel restrictions and quarantine requirements for other international travellers who were fully vaccinated earlier this month. As of Sept. 7, any traveller needed to show that they had received two vaccine shots and a negative test for COVID-19 that is no more than 72 hours old. All vaccination details for travellers coming to Canada needed to be logged into either the ArriveCAN app or online website.

Source: Global News

Alberta Announces Proof-of-Vaccination Program, Reinstates COVID-19 Restrictions

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney has introduced strict and sweeping new measures to combat the spread of COVID-19 as he apologized for his government’s handling of the pandemic. Alberta has declared a state of public health emergency and is taking immediate action to stave off the ongoing crisis in the health-care system, the premier said. The measures include a new program that requires people to provide proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test in order to gain entry to participating businesses and social events.

Under the program, vaccine-eligible Albertans will be required to provide government-issued proof of immunization or a negative COVID-19 test to patronize businesses and social events that apply for exemptions under the program. To enter these establishments, which include restaurants, bars and indoor organized events, people aged 12 and older will be required to show their proof of vaccination or a recent negative test result. “No one will be compelled to get vaccinated against their wishes, and a negative test option will be offered as an alternative,” Kenney said.

Businesses that choose to ask for proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test will operate under fewer restrictions. Those establishments that don’t want to ask for proof of vaccination will operate under the new stricter rules.

Some of the new public health measures began on September 16 and they include:

  • Working from home is mandatory unless an employer determines a physical presence is required.
  • Indoor private gatherings for fully vaccinated individuals are limited to a single household, plus one other household, to a maximum of 10 people. There are no restrictions on children under the age of 12.
  • Eligible people who are unvaccinated are not permitted to attend any indoor private social gathering.
  • Outdoor private social gatherings are limited to a maximum of 200 people, with two-metre distancing maintained at all times.
  • Places of worship must limit attendance to one-third of fire code capacity. Face masks will be mandatory and physical distancing will be required between households.
  • No attendance restrictions on outdoor events and facilities, but two-metre physical distancing must be in place.
  • Schools will be required to have mandatory masking for students in Grade 4 and up, plus staff and teachers in all grades. Exemptions will be available for schools with alternate safety plans.
  • Indoor children’s sport and recreation activities are permitted, with requirements for physical distancing and masking where possible.

Other measures take effect as of September 20:

  • Restaurants will be limited to outdoor dining only, with a maximum of six people per table. Liquor sales will continue to end at 10 p.m., consumption will stop at 11 p.m.
  • Indoor weddings and funerals will be limited to 50 attendees or 50% fire code capacity. No indoor receptions will be permitted.
  • Outdoor ceremonies for weddings and funerals must be limited to 200 people. Liquor restrictions will apply.
  • Attendance at retail, entertainment and recreation facilities will be limited to one-third fire code capacity. People will only be permitted to attend with their household or two close contacts for those living alone.
  • No indoor sport, fitness and recreation activities for adults will be permitted. One-on-one training or workouts will be permitted but with three-metre distancing.

Dr. Deena Hinshaw, the province’s chief medical officer of health, said Albertans must meet the challenge the fourth wave is presenting, especially as health-care capacity is stretched nearly to the limit. “To ask Albertans yet again to step up, to protect each other through activity restrictions after all we have been through, is agonizing. And yet it is absolutely necessary,” Hinshaw said. “Our hospitals cannot sustain care for all Albertans with the dramatic and rapid increase of COVID patients that we are seeing.”

Source: CBC
Source: CBC

Ontario Businesses Brace for Learning Curve on COVID-19 Vaccine Certificate

Pub manager Crystal Meikle is used to pivoting with the shifting rules for businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic. But Ontario’s proof-of-vaccination policy, starting on September 22, treads into new territory, she said, since workers will be tasked with asking customers to show they are immunized against the virus. “The pushback is where I get a little nervous,” Meikle said at the Queen’s Head pub in east Toronto. “It’s the unknown of how somebody is going to react.”

The province has recently outlined its guidelines for businesses required to make the checks. Patrons at dine-in restaurants, nightclubs, gyms, sports facilities and other venues must present a receipt of full vaccination and identification. Doctors’ notes for medical exemptions will also be accepted.

Fines are on the table for businesses that don’t comply with the checks and for patrons who give false information. But businesses, by-law officers, police forces and the province say enforcement will be gentle until the policy’s impact starts to play out on the ground _ with much of the heavy lifting falling to businesses’ frontline staff.

Several Ontario police forces contacted by The Canadian Press indicated they would respond to safety-related calls regarding threats or violence but would not actively enforce or check for compliance with the vaccination policy. A spokesman for Ontario’s Solicitor General said the province doesn’t expect police to conduct “routine compliance checks” of the vaccination receipts.

By-law officers will likely be the enforcement body responsible for issuing non-compliance tickets. In Toronto, the city said it would take an “educational approach” with businesses as the new rules roll out. It asked people to be respectful and to call 311 with non-compliance concerns.

A Ministry of Labour spokeswoman said inspectors would also be visiting affected settings, “taking an education first approach to help workers and the public stay safe and keep businesses open.”

On the ground, businesses have been sorting out how they would assign staff to the task of checking for immunization status. People will need to show paper or digital vaccination receipts until October, when the province has promised a QR code with individuals’ vaccination records and an app for businesses to verify them. Venues that sell alcohol are used to checking IDs, but pub manager Meikle said the vaccine receipt requirement might take some getting used to for staff and customers. She said the job may fall to employees who greet people in different sections like at the bar or as customers arrive to be seated.

The staffing juggle required will play out differently depending on the business type. Restaurants Canada vice president James Rilett said some quick service establishments that typically don’t have someone working at the door are considering bringing another staff member on each shift to check proof of vaccination. Those that can’t afford it are considering not opening their dining rooms at all, he said, adding that the considerations are tough for restaurants already struggling with finances after a year of on-and-off closures. Health Minister Christine Elliott and Toronto mayor John Tory have both said they don’t expect non-compliance to be a major issue.

Source: Global News

Saskatchewan Announces Mandatory Masking and Proof of Vaccination Policies

Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe announced on September 16 that the province will implement mandatory masking, a proof of vaccination policy and a requirement for government employees to get vaccinated or receive negative tests.

The provincial mask policy, which will apply to all public indoor spaces, began on September 17 and Moe said the province has a target of lifting it in late October. The proof of vaccination policy will start Oct. 1 and will apply to establishments, businesses and event venues. Moe said government employees in ministries, Crowns and agencies will be required to provide proof of vaccination by Oct. 1 or provide consistent negative tests.

Moe and Chief Medical Health Officer Dr. Saqib Shahab provided an update on the province’s COVID-19 response. As of September 16, Saskatchewan had the highest case rates per capita over a seven-day period, and the second-lowest vaccination rates among provinces.

Indoor masking

The government said mandatory indoor masking, which began on September 17, includes all indoor public spaces. 

  • Private homes or living spaces are exempt.
  • Youth participating in sports do not have to wear a mask while they are taking part in their activity.
  • The mandate will include areas of a business or venues that are restricted to staff only.

Proof of vaccination

As of Oct. 1, the government will require either proof of vaccination or negative test to access a variety of public places, including:

  • Indoor dining at restaurants
  • Nightclubs, bars, taverns and other licensed establishments
  • Event and entertainment venues, including conference centres, casinos, movie theatres, concert venues, live-music venues, museums and indoor facilities hosting ticketed sporting events
  • Indoor fitness centres and gyms

The government will not require proof of vaccination for the following:

  • Retail businesses, including grocery stores
  • Places of worship
  • Fast-food restaurants offering takeout and delivery
  • Health-care services, professional services or personal services
  • Hotels or other lodging
  • Facilities hosting non-ticketed amateur sporting events, including youth athletics and recreational leagues
  • Business meetings and places of business closed to the general public, unless otherwise directed by the business or employer
  • Private gatherings held at an indoor public residence
  • Children under the age of 12 are exempt from the proof of vaccination or negative test requirements

The government said it is developing protocols on proof of negative test requirements.

Government employees vaccine mandate

Starting Oct. 1, all government ministry, Crown and agency employees must be fully vaccinated or provide a negative COVID test on a “consistent basis.” The government said it is “encouraging” other employers, including school divisions, to implement similar policies for staff.

Source: CBC