Sun | Oct 24, 2021

US to reopen land borders in November for fully vaccinated

Published:Wednesday | October 13, 2021 | 9:25 AM
In this Friday, June 15, 2012, file photo, Motorists make their way to Ambassador Bridge connecting Canada to the United States in Windsor, Ontario. The US will reopen its land borders to nonessential travel next month, ending a 19-month freeze due to the COVID-19 pandemic as the country moves to require all international visitors to be vaccinated against the coronavirus. The new rules, to be announced Wednesday, October 13, 2021, will allow fully vaccinated foreign nationals to enter the US regardless of the reason for travel (Mark Spowart/The Canadian Press via AP, File)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The United States will reopen its land borders to nonessential travel next month, ending a 19-month freeze due to the COVID-19 pandemic as the country moves to require all international visitors to be vaccinated against the coronavirus.

Vehicle, rail and ferry travel between the US and Canada and Mexico has been largely restricted to essential travel, such as trade, since the earliest days of the pandemic.

The new rules, announced Wednesday, will allow fully vaccinated foreign nationals to enter the US regardless of the reason for travel starting in early November when a similar easing of restrictions is set to kick in for air travel into the country.

By mid-January, even essential travellers seeking to enter the US, like truck drivers, will need to be fully vaccinated.

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said he was “pleased to be taking steps to resume regular travel in a safe and sustainable manner” and lauded the economic benefits of it.

Both Mexico and Canada have pressed the US for months to ease restrictions on travel that have separated families and curtailed leisure trips since the onset of the pandemic.

The latest move follows last month's announcement that the US will end country-based travel bans for air travel and instead require vaccination for foreign nationals seeking to enter by plane.

Senior administration officials had previewed the new land border policy late Tuesday.

Both policies will take effect in early November, the officials said.

The new rules only apply to legal entry to the US Officials cautioned that those seeking to enter illegally will still be subject to expulsion under so-called Title 42 authority, first invoked by former President Donald Trump, that has drawn criticism from immigration advocates for swiftly removing migrants before they can seek asylum.

One of the officials said the US was continuing the policy because cramped conditions in border patrol facilities pose a COVID-19 threat.

Travellers entering the US by vehicle, rail and ferry will be asked about their vaccination status as part of the standard US Customs and Border Protection admissions process.

At officers' discretion, travellers will have their proof of vaccination verified in a secondary screening process.

Unlike air travel, for which proof of a negative COVID-19 test is required before boarding a flight to enter the US, no testing will be required to enter the US by land or sea, provided the travellers meet the vaccination requirement.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the US will accept travellers who have been fully vaccinated with any of the vaccines approved for emergency use by the World Health Organization, not just those in use in the US.

That means that the AstraZeneca vaccine, widely used in Canada, will be accepted.

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