Canadian minister talks border with U.S. counterpart in DC

Cars waits to enter Canadian customs at the Rainbow Bridge in Niagara Falls, N.Y., Monday, Aug. 9, 2021. Canada lifted its prohibition on Americans crossing the border to shop, vacation or visit on Monday while the United States is maintaining similar restrictions for Canadians, part of a bumpy return to normalcy from COVID-19 travel bans. (Derek Gee/The Buffalo News via AP)
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Associated Press

TORONTO (AP) — Canadian Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino met with the U.S. Homeland Secretary in Washington on Tuesday a day after Canada opened its border to fully vaccinated Americans. But Mendicino didn’t say when the U.S. land border will open for Canadians.

Canada lifted its prohibition on Americans crossing the border to shop, vacation or visit this week while the U.S. is maintaining similar restrictions for Canadians.

“The United States is going to make that decision when it is best for them. They respected our decision and we will respect their decision and their timelines,” Mendicino said in a phone interview with The Associated Press.

U.S. citizens and legal residents must be both fully vaccinated and test negative for COVID-19 within three days to get across one of the world’s longest and busiest land borders. Canadians can’t cross U.S. the land border for non-essential reasons even if they are vaccinated and test negative.

The U.S.-Canada border has been closed to nonessential travel since March 2020 to try to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

The U.S. has said it will extend its closure to all Canadians making nonessential trips until at least Aug. 21, which also applies to the Mexican border. But the Biden administration is beginning to make plans for a phased reopening. The main requirement would be that nearly all foreign visitors to the U.S. will have to be vaccinated against the coronavirus.

Canada has one of the highest vaccination rates in the world, much higher than the U.S.

Mendicino visited U.S. homeland security Alejandro Mayorkas in his first international trip since the start of the pandemic in an effort to strengthen ties between the two governments.

“It was great to be able to reestablish that face to face contact with a very special trusted partner and friend in the United States,” he said. “There’s still a lot of work to be done but good to know we have a trusted partner to do it with.”

Canadians have been able to travel to the United States for any purpose since March 2020 provided that they fly. But businesses in U.S. border communities are eager for Canadians to be able to travel via the land border and some Canadians are eager to return for non-essential purposes without flying.

Dr. Andrew Morris, a professor of infectious diseases at the University of Toronto and the medical director of the Antimicrobial Stewardship Program at Sinai-University Health Network, is leery about Canada’s border reopening.

“The way you control the disease is you keep your numbers low and you prevent cases from coming in,” Morris said. “There is just a lot of COVID going on in the U.S. It increases the likelihood that we’ll be importing cases.”