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Americans return to Canada across Sault Ste. Marie border

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Sault Ste. Marie -

Fully vaccinated American travellers packed border crossings across the country on Monday as Canada eased up on its travel restrictions for the United States.

In Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., tourism operators are rejoicing, as their American clients return for the first time in 16 months.

"We're just excited to see some live bodies coming through the doors," Ralph Caria, the owner of the city's duty-free store, said.

Caria said he's feeling optimistic American travellers will shop at his store on their return trip home to the U.S.

The duty-free store lost almost all of its business overnight when the pandemic began last year and Caria said it has been a real struggle to continue ever since.

"The hardest-hit businesses like duty-free stores and other tourism-related businesses, they're going to need some specific, targeted help," he said. "Wage subsidies, rent relief, these are all crucial components that we'll need to continue, especially as we wait for the Americans to reopen their borders to Canadians."

While the rules state that Americans must be fully vaccinated to enter Canada, currently children under the age of 12 cannot be vaccinated. However, they are allowed to travel with the vaccinated parents, leading to some concerns about the potential spread of the COVID-19 Delta variant in cities across the country.

"All travellers must show no signs, be asymptotic when crossing the border," said Dr. Jennifer Loo, medical officer of health at Algoma Public Health. "A second piece is that people are still required to take a test, within 72 hours of crossing the border, so there are those couple of other additional protective measures."

Hospitalizations in the U.S. have reached a six-month high, due to the rapid spread of the COVID-19 Delta variant.

However, Loo said traces of the variant also exist in Canada and Ontario already.

"If you are being visited by a friend from across the border, have that frank, open, honest conversation and say 'hey, are we comfortable maybe doing this outside? Do we want to stay distanced? Do we want to use masks," she said.

Algoma Public Health said the best way to protect against COVID-19 is to get vaccinated.

Currently, Algoma's full vaccination rate is at 74 percent.

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