Canada will allow cruise ships back into its waters starting in November as the COVID-19 pandemic fades, but they must fully comply with public health requirements that have yet to be finalized, Ottawa said on Thursday.
Earlier this year, Canada extended a ban on cruise ships until February 2022, citing the need to protect public health. Transport Minister Omar Alghabra said in a statement that the restriction would now be lifted on Nov. 1, 2021.
"We will welcome cruise ships - an important part of our tourism sector - back in Canadian waters for the 2022 season," he said.
The news should please major operators who complained that Canada's ban was hurting their business on the West Coast. U.S. law obliges foreign-flagged cruise ships sailing from Washington state to Alaska to make a Canadian stop.
Canada, however, has not yet lifted a ban on non-essential travel with the United States. A Canadian government official said Alghabra's announcement would allow both countries to work on ways of safely managing the cruise sector.
"We're working hard through our embassy, through our officials, myself, through our department, and ensuring that we maintain business as usual," Alghabra told reporters.
He gave no indication of when the border between the United States and Canada would reopen to tourists.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters in Montreal on Thursday that Ottawa would make an announcement on the next steps to reopening the border in the coming weeks.
A day earlier he had said it "would be catastrophic and heartbreaking to have to go back into lockdown, as some countries are now looking at with surges in the Delta variant, because we were overly eager to reopen by a few weeks".
(Additional reporting by David Ljunggren in Ottawa and Allison Lampert in Montreal; Editing by David Gregorio. Paul Simao and Jane Merriman)