‘Frustrating and disappointing’: Washington families react to new Canada entry requirements

KING COUNTY, Wash. — Canada will reopen its border to fully vaccinated U.S travelers on Aug. 9, but the long-awaited announcement comes with a new set of requirements.

In just 3-weeks, Canada will open its borders to fully vaccinated U.S travelers as it begins to ease pandemic-related restrictions, the Public Health Agency of Canada announced Monday.

The country shut down in March of 2020 to slow the spread of coronavirus. The move impacted many Washington state residents with families across the border.

For King County resident Robert Akhtar, it has been 18 months since he last saw his daughter, grandchildren and extended family.

“OK, OK, this is my daughter and my son-in-law,” Akhtar said as he pointed to a photo in his hand, showing off his family to KIRO 7 during a Zoom call.

“Let me grab it … OK, just hang on there, alright?” he said with a smile as he rushed to grab more photos.

After 18 long months of phone calls and video chats, you could say Akhtar is excited to be reunited with his family in Canada.

“This is my younger (grandson), this is my older (grandson), and he is nothing like this, he’s a big guy!” Akhtar smiled as he pushed photos of his grandkids toward his computer camera.

“The thought of that, going (to Canada) and the border opening, and we would be able to once again meet our families, especially our dear ones … it’s really elating,” Akhtar said.

The long-awaited announcement comes as vaccination rates continue to climb.

According to the most recent numbers from the Canadian government (up to July 10), 68% of its population had received at least one dose of COVID vaccine.

In contrast, just 56% of the United States population has received at least one dose.

“When we saw initially that (the border) was reopening, I thought it was really cool because it meant that we still could make our trip, until I read the details of it,” said Washington state resident, Annee Hilliard.

Annee has family across the border, too, but she doesn’t meet the requirements to actually step foot across the border.

“I’m not a vaccinated American, I don’t plan on getting the COVID vaccine,” Hilliard said. “It’s other reasons than the political factor that’s in it for me, and I don’t feel like we should have to do it.”

“It doesn’t seem right that we’re segregated in that sense,” she continued.

In order to enter Canada come Aug. 9, U.S. citizens need to have been fully vaccinated for at least two weeks prior to their arrival.

Additionally, travel information such as passport details, vaccine cards, or COVID test results, need to be submitted to the Canadian government’s online virtual passport portal, ArriveCAN.

Pre-arrival COVID tests are no longer required, nor are post-arrival required quarantines. However, Canadian officials said visitors will be subject to random COVID-19 testing upon arrival, in which case a quarantine would be required.

Kids 12 and under, who are not eligible for the vaccine, may travel to the country as long as they are accompanied by a fully vaccinated adult. It is also recommended that they avoid large groups and gatherings prior to travel.

“It definitely doesn’t sway me to wanting to be vaccinated,” Hilliard said of the requirement announcement.

“It’s irritating, it hurts a little bit because that’s somewhere that my kids have family and have connections to the reservation out there and want to know that side of the family, and due to our personal choices we can’t, so it’s definitely frustrating and disappointing,” Hilliard continued.

As for Akhtar, he and his wife are inoculated and are already counting down the days – unfortunately, the restrictions won’t be lifted in time for his niece’s wedding at the end of the month.

“We’ve missed too many moments, right?” Akhtar said. “I wish the border was opening sooner than what they are projecting.”

Fully vaccinated U.S travelers will be able to enter Canada almost exactly one month before travelers from other countries. The Canadian government said it intends to open the border to other nationalities Sept. 7.

Click HERE to read more on the announcement.