The U.S.-Canada border is going to remain firmly shut for a while yet, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Monday, as the one-year anniversary of its closure approaches.
“We’re all eager to be able to travel again,” Trudeau told reporters in a news conference. “But I think we’re all going to wait patiently until such time as the health situation allows us to loosen border restrictions internationally. That’ll be eventually, but not for today.”
The comments come as vaccination rates around the world climb and people in North America thirst for a pandemic-free summer. But COVID-19 infection rates are still worrisome. The U.S. is still averaging 53,992 new cases per day, while Canada has reported more than 3,000 cases of the virus’ B.1.1.7 variant, which first originated in the U.K. and is at least 35 percent more deadly.
Several U.S. politicians sent President Joe Biden a letter in January, urging him to “prioritize working with the Canadian government to increase the number of essential traveller exceptions to current border restrictions and establish a plan, guided by public health metrics, upon which the United States-Canada land border will be re-opened to nonessential travel.”
According to New York Congressman Brian Higgins, one of the letter’s signatories, the border should be fully reopened by July 4 and partially by the end of May, the Canadian Press reported.
"I don't see any reason why loved ones who have been separated for a year; property owners; people that live in Buffalo that own a cottage in Crystal Beach, Ontario; business owners—why shouldn't they be able to cross the border safely," Higgins told CBC News.
But there’s no plan in place yet to reopen the border, and neither U.S. nor Canadian officials have come up with ways to do so safely in the future, CBC reported.
Trudeau said the border will be reopened “eventually,” but people on both sides of the border still have some waiting to do.
The border—the longest demilitarized one in the world—was first closed on March 20, 2020, as a way for the U.S. and Canada to curb the spread of COVID-19. The closure has been extended every month since.
According to the bilateral agreement, non-essential travel between the two countries is banned, with a few exceptions. People with immediate family members in Canada were allowed into the country as long as they followed quarantine rules upon arrival, for example. Right now, anyone entering Canada has to quarantine for 14 days. Incoming travellers also have to spend about three nights in a quarantine hotel—until they receive a negative COVID-19 test—that costs upwards of $2,000.
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