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As Canadian COVID travel restrictions near possible expiration, Whatcom gets surprise treat

The Bellingham Herald logo The Bellingham Herald 8/18/2022 David Rasbach, The Bellingham Herald (Bellingham, Wash.)

Aug. 17—It only took a global pandemic and Canada's tight COVID-19 travel restrictions, but for the first time in 14 years, college football will return to Whatcom County this fall.

Simon Fraser University announced Tuesday, Aug. 16, that it will be hosting four home football games at Blaine High School. The games will mark the first time Whatcom County has hosted a college football game since Western Washington University discontinued its NCAA Division II football program following the 2008 season.

The reason for moving the four games from Burnaby, B.C., across the border to Blaine? The COVID-19 pandemic is continuing to impact international travel between the U.S. and Canada, with Canada requiring all visitors entering Canada to be fully vaccinated.

"We are all looking forward to a time when the impact of the global pandemic will be behind us," Simon Fraser Senior Director of Athletics and Recreation Theresa Hanson said in a news release about the move. "This news is especially disappointing for our student-athletes, but we continue to support them and advocate for ways to ensure they can train and compete. We are looking forward to creating a home-field atmosphere in Blaine for these games."

All four games in Blaine — Oct. 1 vs. Texas A&M Kingsville; Oct. 22 vs. Western New Mexico; Oct. 29 vs. Angelo State and Nov. 12 vs. West Texas A&M — are scheduled for 6 p.m. kickoff.

Canadian travel restrictions, including those that require vacation for foreign nationals to enter Canada for non-essential reasons and allow for mandatory random COVID testing at Canadian land and air ports of entry, are currently scheduled to expire on Sept. 30.

But those travel restrictions may soon be extended, according to a Narcity.com story Monday, Aug. 15, with the Public Health Agency of Canada stating that the restrictions "reduce the risk of the importation and transmission of COVID-19 and new variants in Canada related to international travel."

Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos told Narcity that the current restrictions will remain flexible and guided by science.

Canadian restrictions also require the use of the ArriveCAN app by travelers, though the CBC has reported that many critics have blamed the app for decreased tourism. The app's technical glitches also have contributed to long delays, especially at airports, CBC reported, and even wrongly sent some travelers to quarantine.

But the Canadian government has "quietly" updated its rules for using the app, allowing vaccinated travelers a one-time exemption from fines or quarantine requirements if they unknowingly fail to submit health documents through ArriveCAN, according to a CTV News story Saturday, Aug. 13. The exemption was extended to vaccinated foreign nationals on July 29.

"As of May 2022, temporary measures have been put in place at the land border for fully vaccinated travelers with a right of entry to provide more flexibly to travelers with no history of non-compliance, who may have been unaware of the requirement to submit their mandatory health information via ArriveCAN," Canadian Border Services Agency spokesperson Rebecca Purdy told CTV.

After the one-time exemption is used, Canadian citizens and permanent residents who don't properly submit documents will face testing, quarantine or fines up to $5,000, according to CTV, while foreign nationals will be denied entry.

(c)2022 The Bellingham Herald (Bellingham, Wash.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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