© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: US Customs officers talk with a person at the Canada-US border crossing at the Thousand Island Bridge, which remains closed to non-essential traffic to combat the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Lansdowne, Ont.
Written by David Shepardson
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. government on Wednesday extended the closure of land borders with Canada and Mexico to non-essential travel such as tourism until August 21, even as officials debate whether to require visitors to receive a COVID-19 vaccine.
The latest 30-day extension by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) came after Canada said on Monday it would begin allowing fully vaccinated US visitors on August 9 for non-essential travel after the COVID-19 pandemic imposed 16 months. The ban has been described by many companies as crippling.
“We rely on the guidance of our health and medical experts, not the actions of other countries,” White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said, refusing to provide any timetable for when the administration might ease travel restrictions that prevent much of the world from entering travel restrictions. United States of America.
Sources familiar with the matter told Reuters that one of the tough questions facing President Joe Biden’s administration is whether it will follow in Canada’s footsteps and require all visitors to be vaccinated against COVID-19 before entering the United States.
The sources said the White House plans to hold a new round of high-level meetings this week to discuss travel restrictions and the possibility of imposing COVID-19 vaccines for visitors, but no decisions have been made.
The review comes amid growing concern among US officials about the delta variant. US health officials are reporting significant increases in COVID-19 cases and deaths, with outbreaks occurring in parts of the country with low vaccination rates.
The White House last month launched interagency working groups with the European Union, Britain, Canada and Mexico to look at how to eventually lift travel and border restrictions.
Asked on Friday when the United States will lift European travel restrictions, Biden said he would “be able to answer that question for you within the next few days – what’s likely to happen.”
Companies in Canada and the United States, especially the travel and aviation sectors, pushed for an end to restrictions on non-essential travel between the two countries, which were imposed in March 2020, early in the pandemic.
Since then, the land border has remained closed to all non-essential travel. The US has allowed Canadians to fly, although they must first obtain a negative COVID-19 test, as almost all air travelers from the US do. Canada did not allow Americans to do the same.
Travelers (NYSE:) crossing the US land border on essential missions do not need negative COVID-19 tests.
The Canadian Chamber of Commerce, a business group, has criticized the recent US extension. The chamber’s chief executive, Beren Beatty, said the US move “contradicts science and the latest public health data.”
“It is hard to see how allowing fully vaccinated Canadians to enter the United States poses a public health threat when travel within the United States is unrestricted,” Petty added.
The United States has continued to extend restrictions on Canada and Mexico on a monthly basis since March 2020.
Airlines and others have urged the Biden administration to lift restrictions that cover most non-US citizens who have been in Britain recently, the 26 countries in Europe that have no border restrictions, as well as Ireland, China, India, South Africa, Iran and Brazil.
US land border restrictions do not prevent US citizens and lawful permanent residents from returning to the United States. As in previous extensions, the Department of Homeland Security said it is still seeking to amend or repeal the restrictions before August 21.