ST. JOHN'S, N.L. — After maintaining some of the toughest pandemic-related travel restrictions in the country, Newfoundland and Labrador is aiming to once again welcome travellers from the rest of Canada as early as July 1.
Dr. Janice Fitzgerald, the province's chief medical officer of health, announced the goal of lifting the province's travel ban on Canada Day as she unveiled a post-pandemic reopening plan Wednesday.
She was joined at a media briefing by Premier Andrew Furey, who said the province's swift vaccination rollout and residents' adherence to public health rules allowed the travel ban to be lifted. "What a great moment this is, after everything we've all been through," Furey said.
Newfoundland and Labrador's so-called travel ban requires potential visitors to apply to the government for permission to enter the province. Only certain types of travellers, such as essential workers, are allowed in, and most are required to self-isolate for 14 days upon arrival.
The ban was unsuccessfully challenged in court last year by the Canadian Civil Liberties Association in a suit led by Kim Taylor, a Nova Scotia resident who was denied entry to Newfoundland and Labrador to attend her mother's funeral in May 2020.
According to Wednesday's reopening plan, if the province's COVID-19 case counts and hospitalization rates stay low, and 75 per cent of all residents aged 12 and over have received at least one dose of vaccine, that all changes July 1. Fully vaccinated Canadian travellers will not have to apply for permission to visit, nor will they have to self-isolate or present a negative COVID-19 test when they arrive.
Partially vaccinated Canadians will have to present a negative result from a COVID-19 test administered within three days of their departure date, or they can isolate until they get a negative test result, the plan says.
On Aug. 15, those rules will loosen again, and partially vaccinated Canadians will be able to visit without isolating or providing test results. Unvaccinated Canadians will have to self-isolate for 14 days after arrival.
"We are also so excited to be able to welcome tourists back to Newfoundland and Labrador," Furey said. "Big news today for our tourism operators, businesses and everyone involved in our local economies who have suffered so much."
Fitzgerald said visitors will still have to fill out a declaration form, and her team is working out a process for them to be able to upload their proof of vaccination to the travel form.
"Hopefully at the border, the confirmation won't need to happen there, it will have already happened," she said.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 2, 2021.
Sarah Smellie, The Canadian Press