US govt extends travel curbs at land borders
July 22 2021 12:10 AM
The US government has extended the closure of land borders with Canada and Mexico to non-essential travel such as tourism through August 21, even as officials debate whether to require visitors to have received a coronavirus (Covid-19) vaccine.
The latest 30-day extension by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) came after Canada announced on Monday that it will start allowing in fully vaccinated US visitors on August 9 for non-essential travel, after the Covid-19 pandemic forced a 16-month ban that many businesses have called crippling.
The DHS said yesterday that 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, although no decision has been made just yet, the sources said.
The review comes amid increasing concern among US officials about the highly-infectious Delta variant.
US health officials have reported sizeable 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 non-essential 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 non-essential travel.
The US has allowed Canadians to fly in, though they must first receive a negative Covid-19 test, as do nearly all US-bound international air travellers.
Canada has not allowed Americans to do the same.
Unlike international air passengers, travellers crossing US land borders do not need negative Covid-19 tests.
The Canadian Chamber of Commerce, a business group, criticised the latest US extension.
The chamber’s president and chief executive, Perrin Beatty, said the US 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 US poses a public health threat when travel within the US is unrestricted,” he 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-US 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 US land border restrictions do not bar US citizens and lawful permanent residents returning to the United States.
As in prior extensions, the DHS said it could still seek to amend or rescind the restrictions before August 21.
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