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Unvaxxed students face unwelcome reality when considering travel

As borders open there remains fine print that Canadian families should be aware of
Exit lanes from Point Roberts, Wash., sit empty at the local Canadian border station, which was shut down to all but essential travel during the pandemic. Richard Read

By Maggie Macintosh, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Read carefully before planning a family trip across the border — the fine print in Canada’s return policy states unvaccinated children cannot attend school or daycare for two weeks after an international visit.

While the U.S. border has opened to Canadians eager to head south, be it to snag Black Friday deals or otherwise, many rules remain intact for travellers who are not yet eligible to get immunized against COVID-19.

“It’s really important for parents and guardians to know, if they’re going to be travelling outside of Manitoba or Canada, what all the rules are when they come back,” said Radean Carter, senior information officer with the Winnipeg School Division.

“(The clause about school attendance) could have an impact on your decision to travel.”

The division has circulated an online flyer that lists everything families need to know about travelling during a pandemic school year.

Canada’s directives on travel indicate fully vaccinated residents do not need to quarantine upon returning from another country and can attend school without issue, if they have no symptoms of COVID-19.

Young students face different protocols. Anyone younger than 12 who has travelled with fully immunized parents, guardians or tutors is exempt from doing a full quarantine upon return — but that doesn’t mean they can show up to a child-care facility or classroom right away.

Those students are not allowed to attend crowded settings of any kind, take public buses, or visit places where they may have contact with vulnerable populations for a period of 14 days after re-entering the country.

They can, however, accompany parents to grocery stores and gather with small groups of fully vaccinated people. At the same time, families are expected to keep a list of both close contacts and locations visited.

In contrast, young learners who have travelled with unvaccinated adults must strictly self-isolate at home for two weeks, post-trip.

Cathy Cordy, who owns Under the Tuscan Sun Travel, said she spends much of her workday answering clients’ questions about international travel protocols because the rules are ever-changing and vary depending on the destination.

“I believe the travel adviser is never more valuable than it is today. I spend the majority of the time keeping up on what (public health) changes there are,” said Cordy, a Winnipeg travel agent.

Current national protocols require unvaccinated youth to complete tests pre-entry, on arrival and on the eighth day back in Canada.

Fully vaccinated international travellers are only required to show a pre-entry molecular test and if selected, an arrival test.

A rollout of vaccines for children born after 2009 — and a related loosening of protocols — cannot come soon enough for Cordy, who said she is more than ready to “climb out of the hole I’ve been in with my business” after nearly two years of public health officials discouraging family beach vacations.