CANADA-US

A car approaches the Canada-U.S. border in Lacolle, Quebec. The border has been closed to leisure travel for 16 months.

TORONTO - Canada on Monday said it would begin to ease pandemic restrictions at the U.S.-Canada border next month, allowing U.S. citizens and permanent residents in the United States who are fully vaccinated with Canadian-authorized vaccines to enter for nonessential travel without quarantining.

The decision, which takes effect on Aug. 9, follows months of criticism from U.S. lawmakers across the political spectrum, business groups and some travelers over what they said was an overly cautious approach to lifting curbs that have split families, battered the tourism sector and upended life in close-knit border communities.

To be eligible for entry, fully vaccinated U.S. citizens and permanent residents must present a negative covid-19 molecular test taken within 72 hours of flight departure or arrival at a land crossing. They will also be required to upload proof that they have received a full series of an authorized coronavirus vaccine at least 14 days before departure to a Canadian government app.

Officials said Canada will open its borders to fully vaccinated travelers with Canadian-authorized vaccines who live in any country beginning on Sept. 7, "provided that Canada's covid-19 epidemiology remains favorable."

The United States has not said whether it will allow Canadians to enter across the land border for nonessential travel.

Canada and the United States agreed to ban nonessential crossings at their 5,500-mile land border in March 2020, and they have extended the prohibition month by month.

Amid mounting pressure to lift those measures as case counts and hospitalizations dropped in Canada, officials here said they preferred a gradual and phased easing of border restrictions in part because of the spread of the more transmissible Delta variant.

Canada's vaccine rollout got off to a sluggish start marred by supply issues that had some Canadians eyeing the U.S. performance with envy, but its performance has improved significantly. The country has now administered more doses per capita than the United States, according to Oxford University's Our World in Data.

Seventy percent of people in Canada have received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine, according to the data; roughly half are fully vaccinated. In the United States, some 55% of people have been given at least one dose and 48% are fully vaccinated.

There remain several issues to iron out.

Canadian regulators have greenlighted vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech, AstraZeneca, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson. That includes all vaccines authorized for use in the United States. But it excludes those made in Russia and China, including some that have been authorized by the World Health Organization, raising concerns about inequity.

At the pandemic's onset, Canada and the United States also agreed to turn back asylum seekers trying to enter either country between unofficial land crossings along their shared border. Officials here did not say when or if that prohibition would be lifted.

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