Canada resists opening US border as Covid-19 vaccinations ramp up – .

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OTTAWA — Pressure is on Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his cabinet to ease restrictions on crossing the 5,500-mile land border with the United States to help the travel, tourism and travel industries. the hotel industry to save the summer tourist season.

Despite a sharp drop in Covid-19 cases and hospitalizations in Canada, and a significant acceleration in vaccinations, the government has said it will stick to a phased approach, while waiting for a significant majority of the population to be fully vaccinated. Authorities remain cautious in part due to the spread of the highly transmissible variant of Covid-19 Delta and the possibility that fully vaccinated people could still carry and transmit the virus.

But business groups, mayors of border towns and some frequent cross-border travelers say they are increasingly impatient with what they perceive to be a slow approach from Canada. Given the progress made on the public health front, they say there is an urgent need for Canadian authorities to allow the travel, tourism and hospitality sectors to begin the task of rebuilding battered sales from this. summer, when the activity tends to be the most active. Some Canadian citizens say it’s also time to allow families and friends to reunite after a 15-month hiatus.

Canadian authorities remain cautious in part because of the spread of the highly transmissible variant of Covid-19 Delta.

Photo:
Lars Hagberg / Reuters

Canada, along with the United States, has agreed to extend the ban on tourists crossing the land border until July 21. Canadians can travel to the United States if they wish, but they must show a negative Covid-19 test administered within 72 hours of boarding a flight. There is no quarantine requirement once someone arrives in the United States. Canada, however, continues to ban all tourist entry, including Americans, by air and sea, and returning Canadians must quarantine for a period of 14 days, including three nights staying in a hotel mandated by the government. Those rules will change on July 6, when Canada does not require fully vaccinated Canadians to be quarantined, subject to test results.

“I understand the impatience people have to start traveling again, but keeping Canadians safe has been and will continue to be our number one priority throughout the year,” Trudeau said in a statement. press conference. “We are doing things gradually but we are talking about weeks and no longer months. “

The seven-day average of new confirmed cases of Covid-19 in Canada has fallen sharply since peaking in mid-April during a third wave, from nearly 9,000 cases per day to, As of this week, less than 1,000. On a per capita basis, the seven-day Canadian average fell this month below levels for the United States and the United Kingdom. In terms of vaccinations, Canada leads the world for the share of the population having at least one injection, at 67%, and has seen the share of vaccinated fully climb to 21% from 5% in early June.

The White House has formed a joint task force with Canadian officials to discuss a timetable for reopening the border, and press secretary Jen Psaki said the United States will rely on CDC guidance regarding reopening.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D., NY) said he lobbied Canadian Ambassador to Washington Kirsten Hillman over the delay in reopening the land border, noting that the New York state has lifted pandemic restrictions with nearly half of the population fully vaccinated, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

“I explained to Ambassador Hillman how mind-boggling it is that many New Yorkers are now free to travel to Europe, but even those who are fully vaccinated cannot even travel a few miles north of Canada to join. their homes, businesses, stores, families and properties, ”said Mr. Schumer.

Since Canadian border restrictions came into effect, the number of international travelers entering the country has fallen.

Photo:
Cole Burston / Bloomberg News

A spokeswoman for Ms Hillman said the ambassador acknowledged the senator’s concerns and let him know there were discussions between senior Canadian and US officials on how best to proceed.

Chris Jacobs, a Republican congressman from upstate New York, told a Canadian audience last week that he was married to a Canadian and his mother-in-law lived in Kitchener in the southwest of Ontario, about 100 miles west of Buffalo. “My daughter has not seen her grandmother for 16 months,” he said.

Glenn Berg owns a lakefront home in Snohomish County, Wash., Which he says is about a two-hour drive from his Vancouver home. He was there for the last time on Valentine’s Day 2020 and said he was frustrated that he couldn’t keep an eye on the properties he has invested a lot of money in and continues to pay for. taxes. He said it was time for Canada and the United States to allow fully vaccinated people like himself to cross the border, provided they had proof.

“There’s no direction, nothing, especially on the Canadian side,” said Berg, now retired from a sales career in the tech industry. He added progress on the vaccination front in the United States and now Canada should give authorities some leeway to open up.

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“The way the vaccination works, it’s not as if a variant is going to grow in the country. Why are we waiting? We are destroying people’s lives, ”said Berg. In light of the latest extension of the border ban, he decided to charter a Cessna flight to Bellingham, Wash., With his 14-year-old blind, deaf and geriatric pug. He has his vehicle shipped to the United States so that he can pick it up and drive it with his pug to the vacation home. ” Enough is enough. “

Jim Diodati, mayor of Niagara Falls, Ont., Across the river from Niagara Falls, New York, said tourism from the United States is crucial for his community. “It’s right up there with oxygen,” he said. He said he had grown impatient with the reluctance of the Canadian government to come up with a roadmap on reopening the border or providing clear measures on the thresholds the country must meet before tourists can return.

“We want to see a plan. And instead, we get pieces of a puzzle, ”Diodati said. “They think they’re playing it safe. Instead, it’s going to be detrimental to people in tourism, to people whose families have been separated, who are suffering from mental health issues, while people are sitting on their hands. “

The Canada-U.S. Border has been closed to non-essential travel since March 2020, but Canadians have been allowed to visit Peace Arch State Historic Park in Washington state.

Photo:
Elaine Thompson / Associated press

At a minimum, Diodati said, fully vaccinated travelers should be allowed to cross without quarantine requirements.

Statistics Canada said that since the entry into force of Canada’s border restrictions, the number of international travelers entering the country has fallen by more than 90%.

In a recent virtual panel, an executive from the US Travel Association estimated that the US economy loses $ 1.5 billion for every month that travel between the United States and Canada stalls. Tori Barnes, executive vice president of public affairs and policy for the association, said the U.S. economy could recoup $ 3.3 billion in revenue if border restrictions and quarantine rules in Canada were relaxed and that travel was back to half of the level set in the second half of 2019. However, said Barnes, “the opportunity is not there.”

Write to Paul Vieira à [email protected]

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