Travel restrictions

Follow Canada’s lead in easing COVID-19 travel restrictions, US lawmakers urge

WASHINGTON — Lawmakers in the northern United States applaud reports that Canada is set to drop COVID-19 vaccination rules for foreign visitors and want President Joe Biden’s administration to do the same .

Montana Senator Jon Tester, a Democrat, wrote to Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas this week urging him to lift the requirement to vaccinate truck drivers and other travelers entering the United States.

“Recent reports indicate that the Canadian government plans to end its vaccination requirements for Americans and other non-citizens entering the country in the coming days,” Tester wrote.

“It’s high time America did the same.”

Vaccination mandates at the border make international trade “more difficult and more expensive,” especially in states like Montana that have special trading relationships with their northern neighbors, he continued.

“Canada’s fertilizer, hay and other agricultural products are essential to farmers and ranchers in Montana and across America,” Tester wrote.

A coordinated approach to reciprocal measures, he said, “would avoid unnecessary confusion, increase trade and boost economies on both sides of the northern border.”

New York Congressman Brian Higgins, co-chair of the Canada-U.S. cross-party bilateral interparliamentary group, said the issue of border vaccination rules was a hot topic at recent meetings in DC.

Higgins said it would be counterintuitive for the US to maintain its vaccination mandate for foreign travelers in light of Biden’s own assertion in a recent ’60 Minutes’ interview that ‘the pandemic is over. “.

“I don’t know if I completely agree with that,” he said of Biden’s remarks. “But as far as I agree with that is that…all pandemic restrictions should be lifted. People have had enough. »

Two high-level government sources with knowledge of Canada’s decision confirmed on Thursday that the Cabinet Order maintaining border measures related to COVID-19 will not be renewed when it expires on September 30.

The sources spoke to The Canadian Press on the condition that they not be named as they were not authorized to speak publicly.

The expiration also means the end of the requirement for travelers to use the ArriveCan app to enter vaccination records and test results, although the app will remain an optional tool for customs and immigration.

One of the sources said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau approved the decision not to renew the order.

Thus, international travelers will no longer have to prove that they are fully vaccinated to enter Canada. Unvaccinated Canadians must present a negative test result to enter, agree to self-quarantine for 14 days and undergo further testing after arrival.

White House officials have so far declined to say whether U.S. vaccine rules for foreign travelers will change at the end of the month. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention did not respond to questions from the media on Friday.

Asymmetric travel restrictions along the Canada-U.S. land border have been a regular frustration during the COVID-19 pandemic, including last fall when the U.S. opened the door to foreigners who had been vaccinated nearly three months after Canada.

Higgins said he was well aware of the dysfunction and wanted the Inter-Parliamentary Group to focus on finding a way to ensure the United States and Canada can make their border policies more symmetrical.

“You look all over the world, whether it’s the Middle East, East Asia, Eastern Europe, everyone is surrounded by hostility and instability,” he said. .

“In North America – and especially between the United States and Canada – we are surrounded by friends and fish. And I just think, you know, that must explain something.

The Canadian tourism industry has also lamented the uncoordinated approach Canada and the United States have taken to the border.

In a report commissioned by the Tourism Industry Association of Canada and the Canadian Roundtable on Travel and Tourism, several leading Canadian epidemiologists have called for an end to restrictions that target cross-border travelers.

“Travel restrictions put in place around the world cannot maintain a COVID-19-free environment, prevent new (variants of concern) from entering a country, or prevent their spread within communities” , concluded the four doctors.

And Canadian travelers are a low-risk lot, given that more than 87% of people living north of the border have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

“We are one of the most vaccinated populations in the world,” Dr. Karl Weiss, head of the division of infectious diseases at the Center for Viral Diseases at McGill, said at a press conference on Friday.

“I think at this point, with the tools we have, we have reached this point.”

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on September 23, 2022.

— With files from Laura Osman in Ottawa

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