White House won’t commit to reopening northern border, despite announcement from Canada
Elaine Thompson/AP

White House won’t commit to reopening northern border, despite announcement from Canada

The White House declined Monday to commit to reopening its northern border to Canadians after Canada’s government said vaccinated US citizens would be able to enter on August 9.

“We are continuing to review our travel restrictions and any decisions about reopening travel will be guided by our public health and medical experts,” press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters at the White House briefing. “We take this incredibly seriously but we look and are guided by our own medical experts. I wouldn’t look at it through a reciprocal intention.”

Last month, the US Department of Homeland Security extended Covid-19 restrictions on non-essential travel at land and ferry crossings with Canada and Mexico until Wednesday. While the Canadians have announced Americans can reenter Canada next month, it’s unclear what the US will do. The timing on a decision on whether to extend the restrictions on the US and Mexico is not clear.

The White House has been under pressure from foreign allies to resume international travel after keeping bans that were initially put in place under former President Donald Trump. It was a topic of discussion last week between President Joe Biden and Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, who questioned why the restrictions remain in place, and was also brought up during Biden’s trip to Europe for the G7 and NATO summits in June.

The US has set up working groups with allies in the United Kingdom and the European Union on reopening travel, but the results of those discussions haven’t been clear. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the State Department advised Americans not to travel to the UK on Monday after it fully lifted all Covid-19 restrictions.

Beginning August 9, fully vaccinated citizens and permanent residents of the United States currently residing in the US will be permitted to enter Canada, the Canadian government announced Monday. Non-essential travel into Canada has been banned since March 2020, something the Canadian government said was necessary to mitigate the spread of Covid-19.

Rep. Brian Higgins, a New York Democrat who serves as co-chair of the Northern Border Caucus, praised the Canadian government’s decision and slammed the US government for not making the same decision.

“It is extremely frustrating that the United States government has failed to reciprocate current family exemptions already allowed by the Canadian government and failed to show a lack of urgency to make any progress on this side of the border toward lifting restrictions,” Higgins said in a statement. “There are logistics to be worked out and questions to be answered certainly, but the U.S. has neglected to give re-opening the Northern Border the serious attention it deserves, and there is no excuse. Failure to coordinate this announcement in a bi-national way will only lead to confusion among travelers. We will continue to push for action by the U.S. government to welcome our Canadian neighbors back.”

International travelers may also be allowed to enter Canada beginning September 7 provided that the “COVID-19 epidemiology remains favorable,” the Canadian government said in statement.

All fully vaccinated American citizens and permanent residents must have received the full series of a vaccine — or combination of vaccines — accepted by the Canadian government at least 14 days prior to entering the country. Currently, those vaccines are manufactured by Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson. Travelers must provide evidence proving they have been vaccinated.

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