OTTAWA — Canada opened to fully vaccinated Americans on Monday, increasing pressure on the Biden administration to respond in kind to its northern neighbor.
“The Biden administration should reciprocate this policy decision — given the high rate of vaccination across Canada — without further delay,” U.S. Travel Association President and CEO Roger Dow said in a statement from Washington. “Every month that travel remains stagnant, the U.S. loses $1.5 billion in potential travel exports and leaves countless American businesses vulnerable.”
Even as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau shared plans to welcome double-vaxxed Americans, the Biden administration rolled over U.S. restrictions on nonessential travel until at least Aug. 21.
Rep. Brian Higgins (D-N.Y.), co-chair of the Northern Border Caucus, used an essay in Barron’s to advocate for clarity and an update to U.S. travel policies. “This is not a partisan issue or one exclusive to states positioned along the border,” he wrote.
“The time for President Biden to act is long overdue. As a nation, we can’t afford to continue to shut the door to vaccinated Canadians for one more day,” he said.
Nine border state governors have sent a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and Secretary of State Antony Blinken to demand movement on the guidelines. “The public health data, science and advice of our own experts support a responsible, timely reopening plan,” they wrote.
Rep. Suzan DelBene (D-Wash.) also echoed those calls. “Continuing the border closure all but ensures more businesses will close and more livelihoods will be destroyed along the border,” she said in a statement to POLITICO.
Niagara Falls, Ont. Mayor Jim Diodati welcomed back fully vaccinated Americans on behalf of the 40,000 people in his border community who rely on tourism and open borders.
“It’s been devastating,” he said in an email to POLITICO, “25 percent of travelers [to the Falls] come from the U.S., however they represent 50 percent of tourism revenue.”
Diodati offered credit to the Canadian government for taking “a responsible approach” to easing border restrictions.
Beth Potter, president and CEO of the Tourism Industry Association of Canada, took to Facebook to greet Americans after what she described as a long 17 months since the border closed. “Today is a big day for the tourism industry because we are finally able to welcome American visitors back,” she said.
Potter used the same post to urge Canadians to explore their own country, “especially since we can’t cross the border into the U.S.”
Commercial traffic from the U.S. to Canada was moving seamlessly on Monday, according to a government website. Border times for tourists and other travelers depended on point of entry with some crossings reporting no delays and others flagging waits from minutes to hours.
At midday, the wait on the Ambassador Bridge between Detroit and Windsor was said to be 25 minutes; between Sweet Grass, Mont. and Coutts in Alberta, 45 minutes; and on the Pacific Highway from Blaine, Wash. to Surrey, British Columbia, 15 minutes. The wait at one crossing in Sault Ste. Marie, Mich. was 2.5 hours. Check wait times here.
Calls for balance: Jagmeet Singh, leader of Canada’s New Democratic Party, urged health experts guiding border decisions to monitor the status of Covid in the States. “There’s some really troubling things going on with the increasing numbers of the Delta variant,” he told reporters during an unrelated press briefing on Monday. “We want people to live their lives and be able to move freely, but we also want to make sure Canadians are kept safe.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said most U.S. states are experiencing a surge in Covid transmission fueled by the Delta variant. The agency’s vaccine tracker reports that 71 percent of Americans have received at least one vaccine. Canada’s Public Health Agency reports the same rate for Canadians with almost 60 percent of the total population double dosed.
The fine print: Canada-bound American citizens and permanent residents must be fully vaccinated at least two weeks before arriving at the border. Four vaccines have been accepted for entry: Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, AstraZeneca and Janssen/Johnson & Johnson.
Travelers are required to carry original proof of vaccination documents and also have them uploaded into the ArriveCAN app or web portal. Crosscheck all of the requirements here.
The Canadian Travel and Tourism Roundtable, an industry coalition group, used Monday’s border news to call on the government to develop “a universally recognized digital vaccine certification program.”
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