As COVID-19 infections surge across the country, the U.S. has once again tightened border restrictions on non-essential travel.
According to the Federal Register, the United States’ borders with Mexico and Canada would stay blocked until August 21. The previous border restrictions in the United States were supposed to expire on Thursday.
The extensions follow Canada’s declaration on Monday that it would reopen its borders to fully vaccinated US citizens and permanent residents on August 9, with intentions to open them to fully vaccinated passengers from any country on September 7.
“Any decisions about resuming travel will be guided by our public health and medical experts,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Monday. ” I wouldn’t look at it through a reciprocal intention.”
When will borders reopen?
In March 2020, the Department of Homeland Security, in collaboration with its Canadian and Mexican colleagues, closed the US borders to leisure visitors for the first time in response to the COVID-19 epidemic. Since then, the limits have been expanded on a monthly basis.
According to the notices, restrictions on land and ferry travel into the United States have been extended until 11:59 p.m. on August 21.
People from Canada and Mexico have been allowed to fly into the United States with documentation of a negative coronavirus test or recovery from COVID-19, which was implemented in January as a prerequisite for boarding any international aircraft to the United States.
Why is the United States extending its border controls?
The announcement comes as vaccinations are being rolled out in all three countries, and COVID-19 cases are on the rise, with the delta version of the virus accounting for 83 percent of COVID-19 cases in the United States.
The restrictions have been extended, according to the DHS, in order to reduce the spread of COVID-19, including the highly contagious delta version.
DHS spokesperson Angelo Fernández issued a statement on Wednesday, “DHS is in constant contact with Canadian and Mexican counterparts to identify the conditions under which restrictions may be eased safely and sustainably.”
The CDC decreased COVID-19 travel alert levels for Mexico and Canada from level 4 or “very high” to level 3 or “high” on June 7, recognising that conditions, while still dangerous, are improving, according to the Department of Homeland Security.
The travel industry responds:
The US Travel Association’s executive vice president of public affairs, Tori Emerson Barnes, asked the Biden administration to set a date and make plans “as soon as possible” to welcome Canadian travellers at US land borders.
“Canada made the right call in releasing a timeline for vaccinated Americans to cross the land border and visit, and it is past time that the U.S. reciprocates,” Barnes said in a statement on Wednesday. “There is no difference between a fully vaccinated Canadian and a fully vaccinated American.”
United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby said Wednesday that while he understands the Biden administration’s desire to prioritise safety, he believes that reducing border restrictions will improve the global recovery from the pandemic.
During a CNBC interview, Kirby stated: “It does seem that the data and the science are pretty clear: We have similar vaccination rates, similar case rates. We have similar variants. We’re not going to prevent the delta variant from coming to the United States by closing those borders because it’s already here.’’