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As Canada Announces Border Reopening Measures Calls Intensify For U.S. To Follow Suit

NEXUS lane on the far left as travelers return to the U.S. at the Champlain-Lacolle border crossing
Pat Bradley/WAMC
The Champlain-Lacolle border crossing

Canadian officials announced on Monday measures to open the border to vaccinated travelers. While the move is being welcomed, border interests are now calling on the U.S. to reopen its ports of entry.
The U.S.-Canada border has been closed to non-essential travelers since March 2020. On Monday Canadian Health Minister Patty Hajdu reported the country is in a good position to ease border restrictions for fully vaccinated travelers because nearly 80 percent of eligible Canadians have received at least one shot and over 50 percent are fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

On September 7th Canada will allow entry to fully vaccinated non-essential travelers from any country. Hajdu added before that, on August 9th, fully vaccinated U.S. citizens and permanent residents will be allowed to enter Canada.  “All travelers regardless of vaccination status will still need a negative pre-departure test. However starting August 9th we will shift to a mandatory randomized testing for fully vaccinated travelers. This shift allows us to focus efforts on unvaccinated travelers while still keeping track of new variants. The current testing and quarantine requirements will not change for unvaccinated or partially vaccinated travelers.  They will still be required to complete their 14 day quarantine as well day one and day eight tests.”

Minister of Public Safety Bill Blair says Canada will continue to act with caution even as it recognizes people are anxious for the border to open. Blair says they will maintain key restrictions to control the spread of COVID-19 and its variants.  “If they are eligible to enter Canada fully vaccinated travelers will no longer have to quarantine upon arrival. The earlier start date of August the 9th for fully vaccinated American citizens and permanent residents is an acknowledgement and recognition of our shared border and our close relationship with the United States. This means that vaccinated U.S. travelers will be able to visit Canada but it’s important to note that the U.S. has not announced a reciprocal reopening of its border at this time. We will continue to have regular conversations with our U.S. partners to ensure the safety, security and economic wellbeing of our respective countries.”

The move is unilateral and the lack of action by the U.S. to open its border irks North Country Chamber President Garry Douglas.  “After almost a year and a half now of no planning we have to welcome any progress and any clarification by either government. And so we certainly do so. What is appalling in my opinion is the total absence of coordination. Actually what is a little bit odd now though is that Canada’s gotten ahead of the equation from having seemingly been behind. At least that was the impression. Canada is charging ahead with unilateral action. Let’s have the U.S. start doing that as well. Why are we struggling through this? Why weren’t the two announcements coordinated? It’s just astounding to manage policy this badly.”
A number of statements were issued by regional officials following Canada’s announcement.  New York Democrat Charles Schumer, the Senate Majority Leader, said: “Canada’s policy change is long overdue ….. The United States must now immediately follow suit, make our policy uniform, and further energize NY’s recovery.”

Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy, also a Democrat, was pleased with Canada’s action:  “Our Congressional Delegation called for a resumption of greater cross-border travel in the beginning of June and we will continue to call for a safe reopening of the Northern Border until that is accomplished.”

State Senator Dan Stec of the 45th district says the U.S. government must act:  “We need to see more out of the Biden administration…when it comes to what is being planned and why progress isn't being made faster."

Fellow Republican Elise Stefanik of the 21st U.S. House district agreed: “The fact that after 16 months of restricted travel the Biden Administration has still not announced a plan for restoring travel into the U.S. is unacceptable. The Biden Administration needs to step up and begin a full reopening of travel into the United States.”  

Town of Plattsburgh Supervisor Michael Cashman says he is cautiously optimistic since there are still several weeks before the targeted opening date.  “It’s long overdue. And I certainly join a lot of the businesses in the area that are infuriated that it’s taken this long. There has simply been a lack of a plan. The very same actions that are being taken now are the ones that we here locally have been advocating for: if you’re vaccinated you should be allowed to cross the border.”


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