American tourists longing for Canada received welcome news Monday when the federal government announced it would soon reopen its doors to fully vaccinated US citizens.
However, some Canadians longing to cross the U.S. land border fell short as no mutual agreement was announced.
“I’m fucking patiently waiting. We’re all waiting pretty patiently for this border to open,” said Leslie Beitel of Lethbridge, Alta. She has a second home in Columbia Falls, Mont., About 180 miles away, but cannot drive there because the US land border is closed.
“It would be just nice to have free access to our house,” she said.
Here are the current rules for entering the US, including changes.
US travel rules
In March 2020, Canada and the United States agreed to close their common land border to non-essential travel to stop the spread of COVID-19.
The US decided to continue to allow Canadian tourists to enter the country by air, while Canada prohibited American travelers from entering the country by any means of transport.
It was widely believed that when the time was right, the two countries would herald a joint reopening of the land border.
But that didn’t happen.
On Monday the Canadian government did announced that on August 9, fully vaccinated Americans can enter Canada and even skip the quarantine. However, the US government had nothing new to announce other than that keep checking the current travel restrictions.
“Each country can set its own rules for the safety of its citizens,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said at a press conference in Hamilton on Tuesday.
CLOCK | Canada opens the border to vaccinated Americans starting August 9th:
One day later, the US declared that, subject to change, its side of the land border will remain closed to non-essential travel until at least August 21 due to the risks posed by the pandemic
Still, Canadians can still freely enter the United States by air.
You have to provide evidence a negative molecular or antigen COVID-19 test taken no more than three days prior to your flight.
On returning to Canada, travelers must provide evidence of a negative molecular test done in the U.S. However, the Canadian government said that on Aug. 9, travelers can take this test when leaving Canada and use it to both enter the U.S. and return home can – as long as they are in the US US for less than 72 hours.
Birgit Heinbach, right, was previously able to walk to her husband Ian Geddes’ home in Blaine, Washington, in 45 minutes. With the land border closed, the journey now includes two planes and most of a day. “It’s ridiculous,” she said. (Len Saunders)
Birgit Heinbach lives in Surrey, BC, just seven kilometers from her American husband’s home in Blaine, Washington.
She used to be able to walk to her husband’s house in 45 minutes, but because Heinback cannot travel overland, visiting her husband has become a long and expensive journey.
“I have to fly from Vancouver to Seattle, hang out there, catch the next plane to Bellingham. So I need three quarters of a day,” she said. “It is ridiculous.”
Why won’t the US reopen its land border now?
Last year the US did Made noises on reopening the land border between Canada and the US, while Canada publicly rejected the idea.
Why was the US silent on Monday when Canada announced its reopening plans?
Foreign policy expert Edward Alden suggested that the US wait until they are ready to use their common land border. to open again Mexicowhich is also blocked for non-essential trips.
“It would be extremely uncomfortable for this government to … lift restrictions on Canada without lifting land border restrictions on Mexico,” said Alden, professor of US-Canada economic relations at Western Washington University in Bellingham, Washington.
CLOCK | Mexico’s Ambassador to Canada on Land Border Closures:
Alden suggested the US should not rush to reopen the border with Mexico because of the expected consequences: a flood of asylum seekers they cannot turn back immediately, along with a backlash from Republicans speaking out against Biden’s immigration policies.
“It’s mostly the political concern for the Republicans,” he said. “It’s also, I would think, only one [border] Resource care. “
On Thursday the US Department of Homeland Security tweeted that it “is in constant contact with Canadian and Mexican colleagues to determine the conditions under which restrictions can be relaxed safely and sustainably”.
Concerns about mixing vaccines
It is currently unclear whether the US will require that Canadian tourists be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 if they are allowed to cross by land. This is currently not required for air travelers to the USA.
If the US makes vaccination compulsory, it could pose problems for them more than 2.6 million Canadians who have mixed doses of COVID-19 vaccines.
The US does not currently recognize mixing of COVID-19 vaccines.
“The safety and effectiveness of taking two different COVID-19 vaccines has not been studied,” Jasmine Reed, a spokeswoman for the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said in an email.
However, the CDC says Mixed doses of the two mRNA vaccines Pfizer and Moderna are accepted in “exceptional situations”, for example if the vaccine used for the first dose was no longer available. This rule excludes the many Canadians who have received an AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine and an mRNA syringe.
Cruise ship questions
Several cruise companies follow the CDC policy for their cruises departing from the United States, which require the passenger to be fully vaccinated. Norwegian cruise line does not recognize individuals with mixed doses as being fully vaccinated. Princess cruises, carnival and Holland America do not recognize those who have mixed doses of AstraZeneca and an mRNA vaccine.
“It makes me feel like a second-class citizen,” said epidemiologist Nazeem Muhajarine, who received a dose of AstraZeneca and a second dose of the Pfizer vaccine.
Epidemiologist Nazeem Muhajarine said studies so far suggest that mixing vaccine doses is safe and effective, so the US is likely to change policies at some point that it does not currently recognize. (Lauren Winter Photography)
Muhajarine, a professor of community health and epidemiology at the University of Saskatchewan, said studies so far suggest Mix vaccine doses safe and effective, so the US is likely to change its policy at some point.
“It has to change because this is such a narrow view of what is allowed,” he said.
“There are many countries that mix and match different types of vaccines.”