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The Canadian Press
The Canadian Press

B.C. premier says province ready to reopen border to U.S. and international travel

VICTORIA — Reopening the border to non-essential travellers from the United States in August would be a "massive undertaking" for British Columbia but one it is ready for, says the premier. 

John Horgan told a news conference Friday that he is confident British Columbians will remain safe if the border reopens because of the vaccination rate in the province. About 80 per cent of eligible residents have received their first vaccine dose and about 50 per cent are fully vaccinated. 

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told the premiers and territorial leaders during their weekly call Thursday that as long as vaccination rates hold, eligible U.S. travellers could be allowed back in about a month's time. 

The government hopes fully vaccinated travellers from around the world could come to Canada by early September, Trudeau said. 

Horgan said there was discussion about reopening the border as early as next week.

"We have significant concerns about being ready," the premier said. 

"There was some concern that that was too fast and that was certainly the view of British Columbia and others."

The federal and provincial governments are following the advice of top health officials as they navigate the dates around reopening the borders, he said.

"I've expressed that to the prime minister and I've every bit of confidence that he's going to meet those objectives."

The news comes as American health officials are warning that the COVID-19 Delta variant could undermine progress. 

The U.S. Centers of Disease Control and Prevention reports a seven-day average of about 26,300 new cases per day, a 70 per cent increase from the previous week. 

Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the director of the U.S. Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, said the outbreaks are coming in the unvaccinated. 

"And communities that are fully vaccinated are generally faring well," she said. 

Los Angeles County residents have been told to wear masks again indoors, regardless of their vaccination status, as the highly transmissible Delta variant spread after California fully reopened its economy on June 15.

Trudeau said the travel exemption would only apply to U.S. citizens and permanent residents who are fully vaccinated. He didn't say how those travellers would prove their vaccination status. 

Horgan said details such as testing people for COVID-19 at the border are still being worked out.

There are five weeks to the reopening date and the government is closely watching the numbers of COVID-19 cases for the possibility of closing the border again, he said.

"I’m confident that the science is ruling the day right now, and if we see evidence that we need to shift, we’ll shift."

— By Hina Alam in Vancouver with files from James McCarten and The Associated Press 

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 16, 2021.

The Canadian Press

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