A strong majority of Canadians want to wait until three quarters of the population has been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 before reopening the U.S. border to recreational travel, according to a new Angus Reid Institute Poll.
Sixty-nine per cent of respondents said a 75 per cent vaccination rate was the minimum threshold, while a notable 38 per cent said the federal government should wait until even more people had been fully vaccinated.
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Eight per cent said the border should be reopened when half of Canadians were fully vaccinated, while 22 per cent said it should be reopened now.
Support for immediate reopening was strongest among people who were frequent travellers prior to the pandemic.
The COVID-19 Vaccination Tracker, which aggregates data provided by provincial governments, put the percentage of fully vaccinated Canadians at nearly 47 per cent as of Thursday, while more than 69 per cent had received one dose.
Those numbers climb to nearly 54 per cent and more than 79 per cent, respectively, when looking at Canadians over 12.
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The land border between Canada and the U.S. has been closed to recreational travellers since March 2020.
It is scheduled to remain so until at least July 21, and officials declined Thursday to say if the closure would be extended.
Carleton University assistant professor of political science Aaron Ettinger said an extension was likely.
“I’d say it’s going to be renewed for another month or indefinite period of time,” he said.
“The fact that the case rates are up in the United States is a serious problem.”
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COVID-19 infection rates have more than doubled in the U.S. over the past two weeks as the more-transmissible Delta variant spreads.
U.S. lawmakers, particularly those in states bordering Canada, have been pressuring both federal governments to ease restrictions.
On Wednesday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau reiterated that Canada would be taking a “cautious” approach to its border reopening plans and will be making an announcement about next steps in due course.
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On Thursday, the federal government announced a ban on cruise ship traffic at Canadian ports would be lifted on Nov. 1.
The federal government has previously said the reopening process would be a phased approach, and Trudeau said last week it would be “quite a while” before unvaccinated tourists would be allowed into Canada.
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Ettinger said public opinion, combined with the fact that Canada and the U.S. have managed to maintain fairly steady commercial traffic across the border during the pandemic leave the government a fair amount of leeway on how long to keep the travel restricted.
“This is an important thing to remember — the border has not been closed for the last 16 months or 18 months, it’s been just open to some people and not other people,” he said. “That’s been the compromise solution between the two countries.”
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Canada began easing quarantine restrictions for fully-vaccinated citizens, permanent residents and other eligible travellers earlier this month.
More than half of respondents to the Angus Reid Institute poll said the government had gotten its timing right on easing that measure, while 21 per cent said it had waited too long and 25 per cent said it had acted to quickly.
The poll also found that Canadians’ personal concern about COVID-19 was falling, with fewer than half (47 per cent) saying they were worried about becoming sick themselves.
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One in five, however, still said they would not feel comfortable until the global risk from the virus was gone.
The poll also found growing support for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s management of the pandemic.
Fifty per cent said the prime minister had done a good job handling COVID-19 — up from 43 per cent in April 2021, but down from 62 per cent in April 2020.
The Angus Reid Institute conducted an online survey from July 9-13, 2021, among a representative randomized sample of 2,040 Canadian adults who are members of Angus Reid Forum. For comparison purposes only, a probability sample of this size would carry a margin of error of +/- 2.0 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.
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