The United States is extending its border closures with Canada and Mexico for another month. The current agreement between all three countries is set to expire on August 21. Blame the coronavirus.
In March, the borders were closed to non-essential travelers to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus. Truck drivers and healthcare workers are the exceptions and allowed to cross the borders. The acting secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, made the announcement Friday.
“We continue to work with our Canadian and Mexican partners to slow the spread of #COVID19. Accordingly, we have agreed to extend the limitation of non-essential travel at our shared land ports of entry through September 21,” he said.
The coronavirus outbreak remains worse in the United States than in either Canada or Mexico, though Mexico is battling a significant outbreak of its own. The Canadian Public Health Minister made the announcement for border closure for an additional 30 days in his country. ‘We will continue to do what’s necessary to keep our communities safe.” Canadians are, however, allowed to fly into the United States but travelers from the United States cannot fly into Canada. And, Canada is keeping a close eye on Americans traveling through to Alaska.
The federal government has also moved to curb the movement of Americans through Canada who are ostensibly on their way to Alaska. U.S. travellers destined for the northern state have been limited to five crossings in Western Canada and they must commit to taking a direct route.
Dr. Theresa Tam, the chief public health officer of Canada, says the government will continue to monitor epidemiological data on both sides of the border before making a decision to open the country to more U.S. travellers.
Tam said she didn’t want to see a spike in cases related to the U.S. after Canada has been able to flatten the infection curve with aggressive public health measures.
“We want to keep up our good work and, as you’ve seen from the map, Canada is actually in quite a good position right now,” she told reporters Friday.
The rules have loosened just a bit since March. Travel exemptions apply to Americans who are returning to the U.S. and Canadians who are returning to Canada. Immediate family members of Canadians are also allowed entry into Canada but must quarantine or self isolate for 14 days. Naturally, a Democrat lawmaker from New York took the opportunity to give a quote to CBC to trash the Trump administration’s response to the coronavirus. It’s an election year, you know, even if he’s playing to Canadians.
Brian Higgins, a Democratic congressman for the New York district that includes Buffalo and the Niagara area, said he was disappointed but not surprised that the border closure was extended.
“I have been working with Canadian officials at the federal level for several months toward the goal of getting a mutually agreed-to plan to open the border or, short of that, expanding the category of who is an essential traveller,” said Higgins, who was among nearly two dozen members of Congress to sign a letter in July calling for a plan to reopen the border.
“But I have come to realize that the Canadian federal government response to COVID-19 was early, strong and united. The American federal government response was slow, chaotic and adversarial.”
Higgins said he doesn’t think Washington wants to keep the border closed but doesn’t have much choice.
Meanwhile, he said the border closure is having an impact on his district.
“We have, in Buffalo and western New York, two professional sports franchises — the NFL Buffalo Bills, the NHL Buffalo Sabres — highly dependent on the Canadian season ticket-holders for those two franchises. Forty-five percent of our business at the Buffalo-Niagara international airport is citizens from Canada — by and large from Ontario. Our retail economy is highly dependent on the Canadian shopper. Canadians spend $10 million a year on health care in western New York,” he said.
The penalties for not following the quarantine requirements include a fine of up to $750,000, 6 months of jail time, and being found inadmissible, removed from Canada, and banned from entering for 1 year.
The U.S. – Mexico border is normally busier than the border with Canada. As a sign of the importance of social media in today’s world, all three countries announced the border closure extension via Twitter. Mexico is number seven on the list of most confirmed cases and the third with the most fatal coronavirus cases.
“Both countries will attempt to coordinate health measures in the border region that will be in effect until 23:59 hours on September 21, 2020,” Mexico’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (SRE) said on Twitter.
The Mexican Chancellery stated that the restrictions will remain “on the same terms” since their implementation on March 21, when they decided to close non-essential travel, but allow transit for commercial or medical reasons.
According to the U.S. Embassy in Mexico, travelers should carry evidence of the essential nature of their visit and evidence of their resident status in Mexico, if applicable. This travel restriction does not prevent Americans from returning home.
Some of the restrictions seems tortured. Flying into the countries is ok but not by automobile, for example. I don’t quite understand how an air passenger is less threatening to the spread of the coronavirus than an automobile passenger. Anyway, the restrictions have been renewed another month. If Canadians have the final word, the restrictions will remain in place through the end of 2020.
Interestingly, a recent poll by Ipsos-Reid shows that 85% of Canadians think that the Canada – U.S. border should actually remain closed until at least the end of 2020. Furthermore, 92% of Canadians continue to support the mandatory 14-day quarantine for anyone entering Canada.