New York Congressman Higgins urges Canada to drop COVID-19 travel test by November 8 – .

U.S. land borders to reopen to vaccinated travelers on November 8 – .

WASHINGTON, DC – When the United States resumes letting fully vaccinated non-essential North American visitors cross their land borders on November 8, border guards will not ask for proof of a negative COVID-19 test – and a new one The York congressman wants Canada to return the favor.

Representative Brian Higgins, whose relentless campaign against the Biden administration’s travel restrictions has made him known north of the border, said the $ 200 test, known as the molecular test or PCR, remains an obstacle to routine bilateral travel so vital to the economy of his region. .

“I think the United States’ decision to allow Canadians to enter the United States without testing again underscores the potency of the vaccine,” Higgins said in an interview on Friday.

“I would like this to be returned by our Canadian neighbors.

The November 8 start date announced by the White House on Friday comes three months after Canada initially began allowing fully vaccinated U.S. citizens and permanent residents to cross the border in August.

“That will be what we do with it, and I’m happy that people can now be reunited with their loved ones and all these other issues,” Higgins said.

“But the point is, the US border with our Canadian neighbors should have been opened months ago. “

A Biden administration official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss a policy not yet made public, said the White House expects Canadians who have received the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, that has never been approved for use in the United States, be eligible to enter the country.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are currently working on operational details, such as what will constitute acceptable proof of vaccination and what “very limited” exceptions might be allowed, the official said.

Vaccines approved by both the US Food and Drug Administration and the World Health Organization are considered acceptable for international air travelers, and “we expect the same will be true at the land border.” , added the manager.

However, the burning question still remained to be answered as to whether the roughly four million Canadians who received doses of two different vaccines would be considered fully vaccinated – a question the Centers for Disease Control is still actively investigating.

“The prospect that millions of Canadian travelers will be denied access to the United States indefinitely is deeply concerning,” Higgins wrote to CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walensky in a letter released Friday.

“Our livelihoods and way of life depend on the free flow of goods, services and people across the border – often several times a day. “

The US Travel Association has estimated that Mexican and Canadian border closures cost US businesses $ 1.5 billion in travel exports – the domestic spending of foreign visitors – each month.

Political pressure is also mounting on the federal government in Ottawa to provide answers.

“The need for your government to provide clarification is more urgent than ever,” Conservative health spokesperson Michelle Rempel Garner said on Friday in a letter to Health Minister Patty Hajdu.

“I am writing to you today to ask ª that you ensure that Canadians with mixed vaccination status are recognized in the United States before the November 8 reopening. “

As for the testing requirement, public health officials in Canada made it clear on Friday that it will not go away anytime soon.

“We are in a situation in Canada where our health systems are still very fragile,” said Dr. Theresa Tam, Chief Public Health Officer of Canada.

“We still need to be very vigilant and careful at this point, but we will have ongoing discussions with the CDC and the United States to see what is reasonable in the future trajectory. “

The White House has never publicly explained why it waited three months after Canada began easing restrictions. Speculation has focused on the desire to open both land borders at the same time, which an emerging migration crisis on the US-Mexico border has made politically difficult.

“Canada shouldn’t have waited for Mexico,” said Maryscott Greenwood, CEO of the Washington-based Canadian American Business Council.

“Science, politics, politics, reality – none of that would get you to say, ‘Let’s do these things in tandem. The best thing to do in tandem is for Canada and the United States to work in tandem across our shared border, and Mexico and the United States to work in tandem across this border. It makes sense.

Higgins agreed, noting that the United States allows travelers vaccinated to Mexico to enter the country even though only 38.5% of that country’s population is fully vaccinated.

“This whole argument that ‘We have to wait until we reach a higher vaccination rate’ is thrown out the window,” he said.

“The US federal government has proven my point on this – they say, ‘Hey listen, we would like more Mexicans as a percentage of the adult population to be vaccinated, but if they are vaccinated, they’re safe. “

Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland objected on Thursday when asked if, in the future, Canada would insist that the United States use separate and distinct political approaches for its northern and southern borders.

“I think we have to be respectful of the sovereign decisions of every other country around their borders, and the sovereign right of every other country to manage their borders as they see fit,” Freeland said.

“Having said that, I think it’s also worth pointing out that Canada has a very effective and very close partnership with the United States, as we should. “

Since the dawn of NAFTA 25 years ago, the United States has tended to view its two borders through an economic lens – and in this context, they are more similar than most Canadians realize, said Bill Anderson, director of the Cross-Border Institute at the University of Windsor.

“People have the idea that in Mexico what you have is a whole bunch of people trying to cross the border illegally, and maybe you have tomato and tequila imports and exports. . It’s not that, ”Anderson said.

“It’s very similar (in Canada) in terms of entry points. Lots of businessmen cross regularly too, and of course there are a lot of crossings for tourism, there are a lot of family crossings – the volume of people legally crossing is huge there as well. “

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on October 15, 2021.

With files from Laura Osman in Ottawa


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