US extends Canadian non-essential travel ban across border until Aug. 21

A sign welcomes motorists to the Canadian province of Quebec just over the U.S. border. (News photo — Andy Flynn)

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security is extending a “non-essential” travel ban for Canadians and Mexicans across the border until Aug. 21, according to a document published in the Federal Register on Thursday, July 22.

The travel ban, issued by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, was set to expire on Thursday.

“Given the outbreak and continued transmission and spread of the virus associated with COVID-19 within the United States and globally, DHS has determined that the risk of continued transmission and spread of the virus associated with COVID-19 between the United States and Canada posed a ‘specific threat to human life or national interests,'” the document stated.

As of the week of July 12, there have been more than 186 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 globally, with more than 4 million confirmed deaths. DHS said there have been more than 33.7 million confirmed and probable cases in the U.S., more than 1.4 million in Canada and more than 2.6 million in Mexico.

The decision comes after Canadian officials announced Monday, July 19 that they will begin letting fully vaccinated U.S. citizens into Canada on Aug. 9, and those from the rest of the world on Sept. 7.

Officials said the 14-day quarantine requirement will be waived as of Aug. 9 for eligible travelers who are currently residing in the United States and have received a full course of a COVID-19 vaccine approved for use in Canada.

Canadian officials also announced that children who aren’t vaccinated but are travelling with vaccinated parents won’t have to quarantine, but will have to avoid group activities.

Transport Minister Omar Alghabra also said a ban on direct flights from India will be extended to Aug. 21 because of the delta variant. “The situation in India is still very serious,” he said.

Trudeau said last week that Canada could start allowing fully vaccinated Americans into the country as of mid-August for nonessential travel and should be in a position to welcome fully vaccinated travelers from all countries by early September.

In the early days of the pandemic, the U.S. and Canadian governments closed the more than 5,500-mile border to nonessential traffic. With increasing vaccination rates and dropping infection rates, some were annoyed the two governments hadn’t laid out plans to fully reopen the border.

Canada began easing its restrictions earlier this month, allowing fully vaccinated Canadians or permanent legal residents to return Canada without quarantining.

Among the requirements are a negative test for the virus before returning, and another once they get back.

Pressure has been mounting on Canada to continue to ease the restrictions at the border, which have been in effect since March 2020. Providing exemptions for travel into Canada amid the pandemic is politically sensitive and Trudeau is expected to call a federal election next month.

Canadian officials have said they would like 75% of eligible Canadian residents to be fully vaccinated before loosening border restrictions for tourists and business travelers. The Canadian government expects to have enough vaccine delivered for 80% of eligible Canadians to be fully vaccinated by the end of July.

The U.S. Travel Association estimates that each month the border is closed costs $1.5 billion. Canadian officials say Canada had about 22 million foreign visitors in 2019 — about 15 million of them from the United States.