The Chronicle Herald (Metro)

U.S. extends travel curbs at Canada, Mexico land borders through Aug. 21


The U.S. government on Wednesday extended the closure of land borders with Canada and Mexico to nonessenti­al travel such as tourism through Aug. 21 even as officials debate whether to require visitors to have received a COVID-19 vaccine.

The latest 30-day extension by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) came after Canada announced on Monday it will start allowing in fully vaccinated U.S. visitors on Aug. 9 for non-essential travel after the COVID-19 pandemic forced a 16-month ban that many businesses have called crippling.

DHS said on Wednesday it "is in constant contact with Canadian and Mexican counterpar­ts to identify the conditions under which restrictio­ns may be eased safely and sustainabl­y."

One difficult question for President Joe Biden's administra­tion is whether to follow Canada's lead and require all visitors to be vaccinated for COVID-19 before entering the United States, sources briefed on the matter told Reuters.

The White House plans a new round of high-level meetings this week to discuss the travel restrictio­ns and the potential of mandating COVID-19 vaccines for visitors, but no decisions have been made, the sources said.

The review comes amid increasing concern among U.S. officials about the Delta variant. U.S. health officials have reported sizable increases in COVID-19 cases and deaths, with outbreaks occurring in parts of the country with low vaccinatio­n rates.

The White House last month launched interagenc­y working groups with the European Union, Britain, Canada and Mexico to look at how to eventually to lift travel and border restrictio­ns.

Businesses in Canada and the United States, particular­ly the travel and airline industries, have pushed for an end to restrictio­ns on nonessenti­al travel between the two countries, which were imposed in March 2020 early in the pandemic.

Since then, the land border has remained closed to all nonessenti­al travel. The United States has allowed Canadians to fly in, though they must first receive a negative COVID-19 test, as do nearly all U.S.bound internatio­nal air travelers. Canada has not allowed Americans to do the same.

Unlike internatio­nal air passengers, travelers crossing U.S. land borders do not need negative COVID-19 tests.

The Canadian Chamber of Commerce, a business group, criticized the latest U.S. extension. The chamber's president and CEO, Perrin Beatty, said the U.S. move "flies in the face of both science and the most recent public health data."

"It's hard to see how allowing fully vaccinated Canadians to enter the U.S. poses a public health threat when travel within the U.S. is unrestrict­ed," Beatty added.

The United States has continued to extend the restrictio­ns on Canada and Mexico on a monthly basis since March 2020.

Airlines and others have urged Biden's administra­tion to lift restrictio­ns covering most non-u.s. citizens who have recently been in Britain, the 26 nations in Europe without border controls as well as Ireland, China, India, South Africa, Iran and Brazil.

The U.S. land border restrictio­ns do not bar U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents returning to the United States. As in prior extensions, DHS said it could still seek to amend or rescind the restrictio­ns before Aug. 21.

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