U.S. to reopen land border to fully vaccinated Canadians next month

Fully vaccinated Canadians will be allowed to enter the United States at land border crossings and by ferry starting in early November.

Senior U.S. officials on Tuesday evening announced a plan to begin reopening the land borders with Canada and Mexico, which have been closed for non-essential travel since the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020.

The exact date of the reopening has not yet been determined, according to senior administration officials who briefed reporters earlier on the plan during a conference call.

They said a number of details were still being worked out, including what type of document will be accepted to prove a traveler’s vaccination status.

The United States is also awaiting advice from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) regarding travelers who have received mixed doses of the COVID-19 vaccine or the AstraZeneca vaccine. The United States has not approved the vaccine dose mix or AstraZeneca vaccine for its own residents.

However, an appeal official noted that the CDC plans to recommend acceptance of air travelers who have been inoculated with any vaccine approved for emergency use by the World Health Organization, which includes AstraZeneca. The official said a similar rule should be expected at land crossings.

The Canada-U.S. Peace Arch border crossing in Surrey, British Columbia, April 24, 2020 (Ben Nelms / CBC)

The announcement of Tuesday night’s reopening came shortly after Representative Brian Higgins – a New York Democrat who has been one of Washington’s most vocal critics of maintaining border restrictions – broke the news in a written statement.

“The sigh of relief coming from the northern border communities following this announcement is so strong that it can be heard practically at every end of the Peace Bridge,” Higgins said in the statement, referring to the span that connects Buffalo, NY, to Fort Erie, Ont., and one of the busiest bridges between the two countries.

Canadians will be asked about their immunization status

Shortly after, the Secretary of the US Department of Homeland Security, Alejandro Mayorkas, released a statement outlining the plan to reopen.

Mayorkas noted that cross-border traffic between Canada and the United States generates significant economic activity between border communities.

“We are happy to take steps to resume regular travel in a safe and sustainable manner,” he said.

According to US officials, Canadians crossing the border will be asked about their immunization status by border officials.

Proof of vaccination will only be required if a traveler is sent for secondary screening, government officials said on the appeal.

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said cross-border traffic between Canada and the United States generates significant economic activity between border communities. (Andrew Harnik / The Associated Press)

If a traveler is fully vaccinated, they will not be required to present a negative COVID-19 test.

When the updated rules take effect, the United States will also ease other travel restrictions for fully vaccinated travelers arriving by air.

Disproportionate measures

The updated rules mean that Canadian and US citizens will soon be faced with essentially the same rules when crossing the border after months of disproportionate action at the world’s longest international border.

The Canadian government reopened its border in August to fully vaccinated American travelers, raising repeated questions about why the United States did not make the same change.

U.S. rules have also been described as inconsistent, as Canadians were allowed to enter the United States by air, even for non-essential purposes, during most of the pandemic.

Government officials said the updated regulations reflect the growing adoption of vaccinations in North America.

They noted that nearly 263 million people in Canada, the United States and Mexico are now fully vaccinated.

Essential workers crossing the land border, such as truck drivers, will also face a new vaccination mandate starting in January 2022.

Officials said they were waiting to implement the change, which they called the second phase of the border reopening, so essential workers have enough time to get their full immunizations.

Existing border restrictions were due to expire on October 21, but will now be extended until the new rules come into force.

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