Canada to lift COVID border restrictions
Canadian news outlets reported this week that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau plans to let coronavirus pandemic-related border restrictions expire at the end of this month, a move that would allow all unvaccinated U.S. citizens to enter Canada without having to test or quarantine.
North Country officials believe that the loosed restrictions could signal a return to “normalcy” in the local tourism industry, at least as far as tourism from Canada is concerned, and they hope that Canada’s decision could inspire the U.S. to lift its own vaccine requirements.
The U.S.-Canada border closed completely at the start of pandemic-related lockdowns in March 2020. While both the U.S. and Canada opened their borders last year, vaccination and testing requirements for people entering both countries were put in place. Testing requirements were partially lifted earlier this year — though some border-crossers were subjected to random COVID-19 tests upon arrival — and while there’s no indication right now whether or not the U.S. has plans to lift its current vaccine requirement for people entering the country, Canada is expected to lift its requirement that unvaccinated visitors be subject to testing and 14-day quarantines — along with its requirement that all visitors provide vaccination information with the ArriveCAN app — on Sept. 30. Trudeau has yet to sign off on the measure.
Assemblyman Billy Jones, D-Chateaugay Lake, said he’s been working with leaders “on both sides of the border” as co-chair of the Council of State Governments’ U.S.-Canada Relations Committee to loosen border restrictions that he said have led to a lower number of border crossings.
There were 454,602 border crossings at the Champlain-Rouses Point border crossing last year, according to the U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics. That’s a 65% decrease from the more than 1 million crossings at the same border in 2019.
“Dropping the ArriveCAN requirement and lifting the vaccination mandate starting at the end of the month will not only reconnect loved ones but will also help our local economy and tourism right at the peak of the Fall season,” Jones said in a statement Friday. “Border crossings have been down compared to years prior to the closure and removing these restrictions will help day-trippers and spontaneous trips across the border to return.”
Now, local leaders like North Country Chamber of Commerce President Garry Douglas are asking for “full reciprocal action by the U.S. government” to coordinate citizen directives between Canada and the U.S.
“We ask Homeland Security to drop its remaining restrictions at the U.S.-Canada land border starting Sept. 30 so we don’t have chaos and confusion and can resume cross-border travel freely,” Douglas said in a statement Friday.
This past week, Rep. Elise Stefanik again pushed for both countries to drop all of their pandemic-related restrictions. Stefanik has opposed vaccine requirements at the border since they were put in place.