The U.S. government on Wednesday extended the closure of land borders with Canada and Mexico to non-essential travel such as tourism through Aug. 21 even as officials debate whether to require visitors to have received a COVID-19 vaccine.
According to CBC Canada, in a notice pre-published in the U.S. Federal Register, the U.S. government says that while vaccination rates have improved, opening the land border to non-essential travel still poses too great a risk.
This latest extension of the US-Canada border closure comes after Canada announced on Monday Canada would start allowing in fully vaccinated U.S. visitors on Aug. 9, reports Politico. The U.S. has continued to extend the restrictions on Canada and Mexico on a monthly basis since March 2020.
“Given the outbreak and continued transmission and spread of COVID-19 within the United States and globally, the office of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas has determined that the risk of continued transmission and spread of the virus associated with COVID-19 between the United States and Canada poses an ongoing specific threat to human life or national interests,” the U.S. government wrote.
There are a number of issues to be considered before the U.S. opens its borders, reports Reuters. One issue for President Joe Biden’s administration is whether to follow Canada’s lead and require all visitors to be vaccinated for COVID-19 before entering the United States.
There are high-level meetings on tap this week to discuss the travel restrictions and the potential of mandating COVID-19 vaccines for visitors, but results are yet to be seen.
On a broader scale, last month, the White House launched interagency working groups with the European Union, Britain, Canada, and Mexico to look at how to eventually lift travel and border restrictions.
Another big concern with the Biden administration is the rise in the number of new coronavirus cases in the country among unvaccinated people. U.S. health officials have reported sizable increases in Delta variant cases and deaths.
The Canadian Chamber of Commerce, a business group, criticized the latest U.S. extension. The chamber’s president and CEO, Perrin Beatty, said the U.S. move “flies in the face of both science and the most recent public health data.”