The US-Canada border has been closed for 16 months for most travelers, but with COVID cases decreasing in the US and widespread availability of the vaccine when will the US-Canadian border re-open?
US Cases Dropping
As of yesterday, new US COVID-19 cases had dropped below 13,000. Those numbers haven’t been seen for more than a year. With widespread COVID-19 vaccine availability across the United States, and the US government offering vaccine doses to Canadians, cases should decrease.
Unfortunately, in Canada, there’s been a recent spike (now on the decline) that has caused some pause domestically. Mortality in the US has dropped precipitously, over the last three months. It appears that despite millions still testing positive, few are dying from the virus in the US now. Sadly, that is not the case elsewhere.
Canada took a hardline approach in March of 2020. To keep Canadians safe, the Canadian government restricted movement across the shared border to only essential travel with significant quarantine protocols.
Among those protocols is a need for essential travel, a negative COVID-19 test, three days in an approved US quarantine hotel and then self-isolation with an approved plan for the remainder of a 14-day period.
“Canada closed the border it shares with its largest trading partner to non-essential travel in March 2020. It also imposed a mandatory 14-day quarantine for anyone entering the country from abroad. Travelers must now present a negative Covid-19 test and foot the bill for additional tests — and, if they fly in, go through a three-day hotel quarantine before being allowed to leave confinement.”
Circumstances for Re-Opening
Looking at the math for both countries, the caseload with respect to population is about two times higher in Canada than it is in the US currently. To reduce travel restrictions, one would have to assume that Canada would have its own situation under control, though I’d argue it largely is under control. The exception to that is the vaccination rate which in the United States is over 45%, while in Canada, just 12% have been fully inoculated – just over half of Canadians have been partially innoculated. The Canadian government has a much higher condition for re-opening:
“Eventually we’re going to start opening up travel,” Alghabra said at the same Ottawa press briefing. “But right now we’re focused on the third wave.” – Bloomberg
Public Safety Minister, Bill Blair, echoed these comments.
Canadian officials indicated that more Canadians will need to be “vaccinated for us to start loosening things in Canada.” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau laid it out clearly:
“We’re all eager to get back to normal, but we know that before we get back to normal, cases need to be under control and over 75 percent of people need to be vaccinated. We’ll see what framework we apply to ensure we’re keeping Canadians safe, even as we look to eventually changing the restrictions and the posture at the border,” – Forbes
At the current moment, the border is to remain closed through July 21, 2021 – a reflection of the rolling March 21, 2020 closure to the US northern border month-by-month; and an extension from this post’s original June 21, 2021 target.
Officials at the federal level but also local communities that rely on free access on both sides of the border like Detroit, Michigan, and New York State have been engaged in public health talks. However, the 75% vaccination number for Canadian citizens appears to be firm.
The question that arises: will the Canadian border remain closed when the US is no longer the larger threat? Will it then allow its citizens to freely cross the border as they choose or only when its citizenry meets vaccination standards? At what point does this model only penalize Canada rather than protect it?
In this update, it appears that the 75% target has shifted to just one jab, not fully vaccinated:
“We’re not out of this pandemic yet, we’re still seeing cases across the country and we want to get them down. At the same time, we also know we have to hit our targets of 75 per cent vaccinated with the first dose, at least 20 per cent vaccinated with the second dose before we can start loosening things up because even a fully vaccinated individual can pass on COVID-19 to someone who is not vaccinated,” he said.” – Forbes
The latest figures show that 64% have had at least one jab, though 51% are partially vaccinated Canadians. It’s possible that the border reopening may happen sooner for travel to Canada with proof of vaccination. Border restrictions could be reviewed for nonessential travel as soon as early July based on this new vaccine availability.
Setting a vaccination standard above what most health officials require may take longer than the rest of the world to meet. In doing so, Canada may penalize its citizens for not becoming inoculated. Vaccine availability is no longer a concern, resistance may be down to hesitancy. Regardless, it appears the US-Canada border will remain closed for the foreseeable future.
What do you think? If it takes years to achieve the standard, will Canada relent and open its borders anyway?