While vaccination rates vary greatly between Canada and the United States, the two countries need to start figuring out a plan for reopening their shared land border, says a top U.S. Democrat.
In a letter released on Wednesday, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer called for a “transparent, bilateral, and public plan” based on public health data and guidance, along with standards and protocols for reopening the border, which has been closed to non-essential travel since March 2020.
Schumer writes that thousands of American and Canadian property owners and businesses are at risk of losing another summer season
“Due to the rising rates of vaccinated Americans and the subsequent decline in cases in New York and elsewhere, it has become abundantly clear that an agreement can and should be reached to safely accommodate the border communities without compromising the fight against COVID-19,” reads the letter, addressed to U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.
“A bi-national plan with clearly defined benchmarks will provide clarity and transparency to a confusing and frustrating process.”
One of Schumer’s suggestions is to broaden the definition of essential travellers to include vaccinated people who have property, educational, medical or business reasons for crossing the border.
He’s also calling for clarity for boaters and tour boat companies that cross the border without docking, and a directive for border agents on both sides, including access to testing, vaccines and protective equipment.
“While the fight against the COVID pandemic remains paramount, we must acknowledge the progress New Yorkers have made in rolling up their sleeves, getting vaccinated, and reducing the burden of the virus,” Schumer writes.
“This recovery cannot be done, and I will not rest, until bilateral collaboration to safely reopen the United States and Canadian land border is an utmost priority and a plan for a full reopening is publicly released.”
No specific timeline
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has not provided any specific timeline for reopening the land border.
Addressing various media outlets in March, Trudeau said the border will not reopen until vaccination rates and COVID-19 case counts reach safer levels.
“Everyone looks forward to starting the travel again and we're certainly going to keep working closely with the United States as we have since the beginning of the pandemic,” Trudeau said at the time. “But the safety of Canadians is our single most and top priority.”
The deadline for Canada’s travel restrictions with the U.S., which is typically extended 30 days at a time, is set for May 21.
Canadian officials typically announce extensions within seven to 10 days of each deadline’s expiry date.
While the land border is closed, Canadians are still able to fly to the U.S. due to a well-known loophole in the system.
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