WASHINGTON – A new report urges Canada and the United States to keep their shared border open when the next pandemic strikes, rather than shutting it off entirely to non-essential travel.
The task force, convened by the Washington-based Wilson Center, said an approach to managing risk at the border would have been less disruptive and less damaging than the “zero risk” approach that was adopted.
The group includes former Public Safety Minister Anne McLellan and former Quebec Premier Jean Charest, as well as former Washington State Governor Christine Gregoire and James Douglas, the former Governor of Vermont.
The group’s year-long investigation also found that the border closure was much less integrated between the two countries than was originally believed.
Mr Charest says a number of people living on both sides of the border suffered throughout the closure, which took effect in March 2020, and the cost was ultimately too high.
And he says the time has come for a mutual strategy in place, as the prospect of another pandemic is not a question of if, but when.
The rules prohibited non-essential leisure travel across the land border without restricting essential business shipments and workers. Canada began easing restrictions on fully vaccinated travelers in August, while a new U.S. requirement that travelers be fully vaccinated will take effect on November 8.
The United States will continue to require air travelers to produce proof of a recent negative COVID-19 test, but the office of New York Congressman Brian Higgins says the requirement will not apply to those who enter the country from Canada by land.
No testing at the land border
A spokesperson for Mr Higgins said the border agency is expected to announce additional details in the coming days before the United States eases its border restrictions on November 8.
“US Customs and Border Protection confirmed to us again today that there will be no testing requirement for travelers vaccinated in order to cross the land border,” the office said in a statement.
Beginning November 8, fully vaccinated travelers flying to the United States for non-essential purposes will be required to present a negative test results less than 72 hours before boarding their flight.
Higgins has previously called on the Government of Canada to stop requiring travelers to present the results of an expensive PCR test before arriving at a land border crossing.
He says the test, which costs around $ 200, remains a major deterrent to travel and a drag on economic recovery in border communities.
Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, acknowledged on Friday that testing is “a real problem” both within the federal government and in discussions with provinces and territories.
But for now, she said the requirement for a test remains an important safety measure, even with high vaccination rates in Canada, especially given the uncertainty surrounding the Delta variant and lingering questions. how long vaccines remain effective.
“No layer of protection is ever 100% perfect, we know that,” said Dr Tam.
“With all of these considerations, I think it’s important to have that extra layer of protection (testing) for now, but we’ll look at it.”