Starting approximately March 2020, the United States and Canada agreed to restrict border crossings for all nonessential travel in an effort to curb the spread of Covid-19 between the two countries. Canada’s ban included travel by air, land, and sea. Interestingly, the US never banned Canadians from flying to the US.
On August 9 Canada reopened the border to US residents who have been fully vaccinated and provide results of a Covid-19 test taken within 72 hours of arrival. The US, however, did not respond in kind. In fact, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) extended the restrictions until October 21, 2021. The US ban applies to land ports of entry, passenger rail, ferry terminals, and pleasure boats. The ban does not apply to air, freight rail or sea travel.
Why Can Canadians Fly to the US But Can’t Drive Across the Border?
Why air travel into the United States from Canada was never restricted is unclear and, to date, no one has made a real effort to explain the reason for it. The only requirement for Canadian airline passengers is that all persons over the age of 2 must produce a negative Covid-19 test taken within 72 hours of departure.
Continued Border Closure Frustrating to Canadians and Americans
Imagine being used to driving routinely back and forth across the border and suddenly having that freedom taken away. For those living close to the border on both sides, frequent, if not daily, “nonessential” trips across the border are a way of life.
Sure, Canadians can get across the border in a plane. But when you’re being required to take a day and a half of travel and hundreds of extra dollars to go to the same place it would otherwise take you 45 minutes to drive to, there should be a pretty compelling reason behind it.
US businesses that rely on border traffic must continue to struggle when logic suggests that any perceived risk that might be introduced to the US at the border could be properly managed with a requirement of full vaccination and a negative Covid test.
So why isn’t the US willing to reciprocate the courtesy given by our northern neighbors?
Reasons Why the US Is Slow to Open the Land Border
The official reason given for the ongoing border restrictions toward Canada is that the risk of continuing the transmission and spread of Covid-19 between the two countries poses a “specific threat to human life or national interests.” Okay, but consider this: the geographic size of Canada is slightly bigger than the US. Yet the population of the US is close to 9 times greater. Although both countries are close to 50% vaccinated, having only 50% of Canadians unvaccinated is a lot fewer people than 50% of Americans. Thus, if anything, it makes more sense for Canadians to keep Americans out than the other way around.
Another reason that has been suggested for the hold-up with reopening the northern border is that the US also has a southern border to think about. The situations in the countries beyond each border are very different and the US may be waiting to try and establish a coordinated policy that could be used at both borders.
Whatever the actual reason for continuing to delay opening the land border to Canadians, the Biden administration is being pressured to provide some answers from both sides of the northern border.
In July of this year, the governors of 9 border-states wrote a joint letter to Homeland Security Secretary Mayorkas and Secretary of State Blinken stressing the magnitude of the economic impact caused by the continuation of border restrictions and asking that a plan for reopening be implemented. Another letter was sent to President Biden and Prime Minister Trudeau by several border-state governors and the premiers of two Canadian border provinces asking that the leaders work together to get the border reopened.
The US re-evaluates the continuation of the border closure every 30 days. Many people feel that even if the southern border continues to remain closed, it will be hard to justify the hardship imposed on Americans by restricting all Canadians from entering the US at the northern border when secure protocols exist to effectively manage the risk of further transmission and spread of Covid-19.
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