Canada on Monday said it will begin to ease pandemic restrictions at the border next month, allowing U.S. citizens and permanent residents living in the United States who are fully immunized with Canadian-authorized vaccines to enter for nonessential travel without quarantining.
The decision, which takes effect Aug. 9, follows months of criticism from U.S. lawmakers across the political spectrum, from business groups and from some travelers over what they said was an overly cautious approach to lifting restrictions that have split families, battered the tourism sector and upended life in close-knit border communities.
To be eligible, fully vaccinated U.S. citizens and permanent residents must be asymptomatic and present a negative coronavirus test taken within 72 hours of flight departure or arrival at a land crossing.
They will also be required to upload to the Canadian government's app or website the proof that they have received a full series of an authorized vaccine at least 14 days before departure. They must also present their original copies of that proof.
Officials said Canada will open its borders for discretionary travel to fully immunized travelers with Canadian-authorized vaccines who live in any country beginning Sept. 7, "provided that Canada's covid-19 epidemiology remains favorable."
Canadian Public Safety Minister Bill Blair said the government's easing of restrictions for fully vaccinated Americans before the rest of the world "is an acknowledgment and recognition of our shared border, and our close relationship."
The United States has not said whether it will allow Canadians to enter across the land border for nonessential travel. White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters Monday that the U.S. continues to review its travel restrictions.
The British government said Monday that children as young as 12 with severe neurodisabilities, Down syndrome, immunosuppression and multiple or severe learning disabilities, as well as those who are household contacts of individuals who are immunosuppressed, will be eligible for vaccination.
The decision to hold off on giving shots to most people younger than 18 was based on the recommendation of an expert advisory panel. The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunization said the health benefits of universal vaccination don't outweigh the risks for most young people, who typically suffer only mild symptoms of the virus.
"Until more safety data is available and has been evaluated, a precautionary approach is preferred," the committee said in a statement.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid said in a statement that "today's advice does not recommend vaccinating under-18s without underlying health conditions at this point in time. "But the [committee] will continue to review new data, and consider whether to recommend vaccinating under-18s without underlying health conditions at a future date."
The decision not to vaccinate most young people puts the U.K. at odds with France and several other European countries, which have decided to vaccinate adolescents as young as 12.
Among hundreds of people at a Paris vaccination center Friday, scores were teenagers with their parents. The French government announced last week that it plans to set up vaccination drives at middle schools, high schools and universities in the fall.
In the U.K., children and teenagers who are eligible will receive the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, the only one that British regulators have authorized for use in those younger than 18. The University of Oxford is still conducting trials on the safety and effectiveness in children of the vaccine it developed with AstraZeneca.
Meanwhile, corks popped, beats boomed out and giddy revelers rushed onto dance floors when England's nightclubs reopened Monday as the country lifted most remaining restrictions after more than a year of lockdowns, mask mandates and other curbs on freedom.
For clubbers and nightclub owners, the moment lived up to its media moniker, "Freedom Day." But the big step out of lockdown was met with nervousness by many Britons and concern from scientists, who say the U.K. is entering uncharted waters by opening up as confirmed cases are soaring.
Masks are no longer required in England, work-from-home guidance has ended and, with social distancing rules shelved, there are no limits on the number of people attending theater performances and other events.
Nightclubs were allowed to open for the first time in almost 18 months, and from London to Liverpool, thousands of people danced the night away at Freedom Day parties starting at midnight.
"I'm absolutely ecstatic," clubgoer Lorna Feeney said at Bar Fibre in the city of Leeds. "That's my life, my soul -- I love dancing."
At The Piano Works in London, patrons packed the area around the cordoned-off dance floor Sunday as a host led a countdown to midnight.
Once a ceremonial ribbon was cut, the crowd ran toward the dance floor as confetti cannons went off and a disco ball spun above. Soon, unmasked clubgoers dancing to a live band's rendition of Whitney Houston's "I Wanna Dance With Somebody" filled the floor.
But while entertainment businesses and revelers are jubilant, many people are deeply worried about scrapping restrictions at a time when covid-19 cases are on a rapid upswing because of the highly infectious delta variant.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson urged the public to "proceed cautiously" and "recognize that this pandemic is far from over."
Or, as Deputy Chief Medical Officer Jonathan Van-Tam put it at a televised news conference: "Don't tear the pants out of this."
Information for this article was contributed by Amanda Coletta and Felicia Sonmez of The Washington Post; and by Danica Kirka, Urooba Jamal, Jill Lawless, Sylvia Hui and Jo Kearney of The Associated Press.