Canada-US border crossings are increasing. Here’s what needs to happen to keep COVID-19 out – National


While the United States is faced with an avalanche of new cases of the new coronavirus, the border between the country and Canada remains closed to non-essential travel. But even with the border closure, there has been a recent increase in the number of land border crossings in recent weeks, according to data from the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA).

At the end of April, approximately 112,000 to 115,000 people crossed Canada’s land borders, down about 90% from the same period last year. But in recent weeks, that number has increased, reaching around 172,000 in the first week of July, according to public data from the CBSA.

The agency told Global News that this was due to the crossings of US citizens and foreign nationals who meet entry requirements, including immediate family members of Canadians – a recent exception – returning citizens or permanent residents returning home after the first foreclosure measures, those traveling for work and study, and essential workers.

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The border is likely to remain closed to non-essential travel until the end of August, government sources told Canadian Press this week, as the closure has been extended monthly since March.

The surge in coronavirus cases in the United States has naturally made Canadians nervous that more land border crossings will bring the virus – especially as the total number of cases in Canada has decreased. To ensure safety, new policies and procedures should be implemented to help protect Canadians from epidemics in the south of the country, experts told Global News.

Security measures currently in place

Currently, at all land border crossings, the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) advises border officers on how to implement improved controls, said Judith Gadbois-St-Cyr , spokesperson for the CBSA, by email.

Following continuous reports of record daily reports of new cases of coronavirus in the United States, PHAC added additional staff at 36 high-volume ports of entry into Canada this week. This was done to “minimize the risk of importing COVID-19 cases,” the health agency told Global News.

The points where new PHAC officials have been stationed receive 90% of all incoming travelers, he added.

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Anyone who arrives in Canada is asked about the purpose of their visit and whether they feel unwell. They will also be asked about their quarantine plan and whether they have a safe place to isolate themselves for 14 days, in accordance with Canada’s entry policy. Border guards will determine if a plan is enough, said Gadbois-St-Cyr.

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CBSA officers are also watching for visible signs of illness in anyone crossing the border and will refer travelers they suspect are sick to a PHAC staff member, said Gadbois-St- Cyr.

In addition to the measures that CBSA officers take, PHAC officials will take a person’s temperature if referred to them by the CBSA for further screening and ask other questions about people with which they came into contact with.

Travelers are informed of the law on quarantine upon entry and of the possibility of being fined or fined in case of violation, and contact tracing is used.

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Keep the border closed

Keeping the border closed to non-essential travel until the United States stifles the number of coronavirus cases in a hot air balloon is ultimately the best policy option beyond individual border checks or assessments, said Dr. Sumontra Chakrabarti, infectious disease specialist at Trillium Health Partners in the Greater Toronto Area.

“I am talking about a clear downward trend … and clearly, this is not the case at the moment,” he said.

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Border screening measures, such as temperature control, can only be effective, as some with COVID-19 are asymptomatic or may be to the point where they do not yet show symptoms, explained Chakrabarti.

“When you are at the border, you are only there for a very short time,” he said. “So a lot of these feel good screening checks don’t do much. “

Even with an increased number of travelers crossing the land border, there have so far been relatively few outbreak incidents based on these entries. – which says more about the effectiveness of the border closure than about control measures, Dit Chakrabarti.

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What to do next

Despite the higher number of travelers crossing the land border this summer, the fact that there have been relatively few incidents of outbreaks due to transportation and screening policies, as well as the Quarantine Act, are effective – but it could also mean that we’ve been lucky so far, said Colin Furness, infection control epidemiologist and associate professor at the University of Toronto.

Public health officials join US border officials to screen people entering Canada

Public health officials join US border officials to screen people entering Canada

This month, Prince Edward Island saw its first group of cases after two months without new infections after an American student entered Nova Scotia and failed to quarantine. He is said to have met a friend from Prince Edward Island who then infected others on the island.

As recently as this week, a Florida couple was charged under the Quarantine Act for failing to isolate themselves after traveling to northern Ontario to visit their seasonal property.

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In essence, travel should be minimized as much as possible without exception for any type of tourism, said Furness.

A clear concern is that the border may be closed to Americans, but Canadians can come and go as they please and simply need to be quarantined upon return, said Furness.

“We shouldn’t have that. It’s not just about keeping the Americans out of the way if we are to make a difference, ”he said.

“Canadians should not leave the country for tourist or business trips.”

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There are other checks that need to be done, and CBSA border guards should not be expected to take sole responsibility for assessing the health of those entering, which is why the increased presence of ‘PHAC is important,’ said Furness.

It would probably be useful to continue increasing the number of people who receive additional screenings by PHAC officials, he added.

Maintain Canada’s ability to identify new outbreaks

Focusing on what works should be able to keep Canada on track with the border, said Fiona Smaill, professor of pathology and molecular medicine at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario. Smaill believes that the borders should remain closed for the time being.

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“What we have been able to achieve now in the middle of the summer has been really well done,” she said.

“We want to have a safe environment when September comes so that we can bring our kids back to school, and we didn’t blow it up by doing something prematurely.”

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It is also essential to be able to count on our public health system to detect new epidemics at their source, she explained. With nonessential travel entering the country, some infections may be imported. What matters is that Canada can contain these outbreaks, she said.

Chakrabarti agrees that small new groups are tolerable because current Canadian procedures seem to quickly identify these cases, he said.

Keeping a strict eye on travelers through contact tracing is what will keep Canada in a good position.

“If something happens, we will know right away,” said Chakrabarti.

« They will not start the fire because the amount of fuel at this time is very low. “

Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you should know:

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Symptoms may include fever, cough, and difficulty breathing – very similar to a cold or the flu. Some people may develop a more serious illness. Those most at risk are the elderly and those with serious chronic conditions such as heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.

To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend washing your hands frequently and coughing up your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying at home as much as possible, and keeping two meters away from others if you go out. In situations where you cannot keep a safe distance from others, public health officials recommend the use of a face mask or non-medical coating to prevent the spread of respiratory droplets that can carry the virus. In some provinces and municipalities across the country, face masks or covers are now required in indoor public spaces.

For full COVID-19 coverage by Global News, click here.

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