The U.S. Looks To Stay Closed

Canada has now opened up to fully vaccinated American travelers, but Canadians are still not allowed to cross the land border with the U.S.. And all indications are that the border may stay closed for quite a while. Travel experts say the Biden administration is preparing to hunker down as they deal with a fourth wave of COVID-19 and while they’re looking at ways to allow fully vaccinated travelers into the US, they re in no hurry.

According to an exclusive story by Reuters last week, “The Biden administration is developing a plan to require nearly all foreign visitors to the United States to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 as part of eventually lifting travel restrictions that bar much of the world from entering the United States.”

It was not clear how long the administration will maintain existing restrictions but the official reiterated that infections “appear likely to continue to increase in the weeks ahead” and that “the United States will maintain existing travel restrictions at this point.”

The White House official did not immediately answer questions about whether the administration is developing plans to also require visitors arriving from Mexico and Canada to be vaccinated before crossing land borders.

The U.S.-Canada border has been closed to all but essential traffic since March 2020. Donald Trump enacted the first U.S. travel restrictions on China in January 2020. These have been updated since then to include most of the world.

However the official’s comments were the strongest signal to date that the White House sees a path to unwinding those restrictions. It’s the timeline that remains murky.

The U.S. is battling a deadly new wave of infections as the Delta variant sweeps though the county. New reports from the CDC also raise concerns that fully vaccinated people may also be able to transmit the virus. This has the potential of wreaking havoc with the global travel industry once again.

As of August 7th, Canada led the G7 with the highest vaccination rate. 62% of Canadians were fully vaccinated while 72% had at least one shot. This compares quite favourably to the U.S. where just 50% of Americans were fully vaccinated with just 58.5% being partially.

It’s important to note that instituting a policy of only accepting fully vaccinated travelers into the U.S. will not be easy to implement or manage. President Biden has said he doesn’t support vaccine passports for Americans which makes it more difficult for countries to create and agree on a universal standard to show proof. As well Canada and many European countries have administered the AstraZeneca vaccine which hasn’t been approved in the U.S., as well as embracing mixing and matching doses, which is also not recommended in the US.

There are a lot of families on both sides of the border between Canada and the U.S. which hope to be able to reunite, along with a lot of pent up business and leisure travel demand. So Canadians are anxiously waiting to see if the Biden administration replies with easier travel demands for Canadians.