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Canada flip-flops on vaccinations for cross-border truckers

Trucks traveling through a cross-border checkpoint
U.S. Customs and Border Patrol

Canada has clarified a COVID-19 measure that goes into effect on Saturday for cross-border truckers.

Originally, Ottawa said Canadian truckers would be exempt from the measure. But in a statement Thursday, the departments of Transportation, Health and Public Safety said all truckers coming into Canada must be fully vaccinated.

Canadian truckers who aren’t vaccinated will have to face PCR testing and possibly quarantine. Non-Canadian truckers who are unvaccinated or partially vaccinated will be denied entry into Canada.

It was a major flip-flop by the Canadian government and led to widespread confusion Thursday.

Critics have said that decision could affect about 10% of the truckers who haul goods back and forth across the border — and losing up to 16,000 of them, which could have a significant impact on Canada’s supply chain.

Mary Ng is Canada’s trade minister.

“Well, we’ve been working with the industry precisely to make sure that our supply chains are not going to be disrupted. I mean, that is the work that we are doing," Ng said. "But remember, we’re also balancing against the other really important work that all of us are doing, which is fighting COVID-19.”

Ottawa insists the position has not changed, adding that the U.S. is set to enact its own vaccine mandate for essential workers at the border on Jan. 22. It’s expected that unvaccinated Canadian truckers will face similar restrictions when Washington’s policy comes into effect.

The rule comes the same week the U.S. issued a Do Not Travel to Canada warning, indicating a very high level of COVID-19 in the country.

The Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters Association said the trucking industry hauls about 80% of the $648 billion in Canada-U.S. trade each year.