Canadians will soon be able to drive across the U.S. border again. Here’s why that might be a bad idea

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WASHINGTON—It just so happened that the day the US announced that it was finally, after all these months, reopening its land border to Canadian travelers, Canada’s Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland-led the Trudeau government. The all-purpose handler of important stuff—was in Washington. Standing in a park in front of the White House, anti-pipeline environmentalists were shouting behind him, asking him Wednesday morning about the long-awaited good news for snowbirds, cross-border shoppers and those missing their family and friends Gaya. America

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Her reply touched on the fact that, although fully vaccinated Canadians will soon be able to travel to the US for non-urgent reasons, such as tourism or family visits, they may think twice about whether are they needed.

“There are two separate issues, right? Personal safety and what we all must collectively do to keep Canadians as safe as possible in the face of this fourth wave and newer and more infectious COVID variants,” Freeland said. Said. “I think it’s really important for Canadians to listen carefully to the advice of the medical authorities.”

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The principal medical authority in his government, Health Minister Patty Hadjoo, said over the weekend Canadians should travel to the US only if it is “absolutely necessary”, with warnings specifically against visiting certain US states where COVID-19 is “very, very out of control.”

According to the US, there are still about 2,000 people dying from COVID-19 every day in the United States. new York Times, and while new cases and hospitalization rates have dropped by about a fifth from rates two weeks ago, they remain higher than in Canada.

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Only 57 percent of Americans have been fully vaccinated so far (compared to 72 percent of Canadians), and case rates are rising in Canada’s border regions of Alaska, the Midwest, and the Northeast, even as rates fall in the US South. Have gone as many as one in five US hospitals recently reported Their ICU beds must be occupied by more than 95 per cent, which means those seeking medical treatment some areas of the US — Whether for COVID-19 or something — May Get Hospital overwhelmed.

While Freeland did not specifically recommend against traveling to the US, he did preach caution. “I’m going to quote Toronto Public Health Officer Eileen de Villa, who gave some really good advice,” Freeland said. “She said, ‘Just try to do the things you need to do, and maybe hold back from doing the things you want to do.’ And I think, if you just keep doing this for a few more weeks, Canada can really completely put COVID behind us. And I have to say as a finance minister… the most important policy for Canada right now COVID has to be put behind.”

Meanwhile, she said that when it comes to questions about whether or not testing requirements will align on either side of the border, and whether she expects Canadians who receive mixed doses of different COVID-19 vaccines to be allowed into the US “We are working with our US partners to clarify and finalize all the details.”

As of Wednesday, some questions about those details and how they would apply to Canadians had been clarified by US officials, while others remained up in the air.

new policy announced by Department of Homeland Security There is no testing requirement included for land crossings at the Canadian and Mexican borders when they reopen for leisure travel next month. People will be questioned by guards to make sure they have been fully vaccinated, and may be asked to show documents to prove this. “Essential travellers,” such as those involved in business, will be exempt (as they are and still are) from the vaccination requirement until sometime in January.

White House officials say they expect the United States to accept all World Health Organization-approved vaccines as valid; Including the AstraZeneca vaccine, which was approved and used in Canada but not in the US

However, he said a decision remains to be made – in a matter of weeks – about whether to accept people who received doses of two different vaccines. That’s an important question for the millions of Canadians who got their first dose of AstraZeneca vaccine but got a second dose of Pfizer or Moderna Vaccine.

Even as those details are sorted out, many in the US – especially in border communities and vacation destinations like Florida and Arizona whose economies depend on Canadian tourism – celebrate the long-awaited reopening. were celebrating.

Representative Brian Higgins, representing Buffalo and Niagara Falls, NY, said in a statement Tuesday night, “The sigh of relief from Northern Frontier communities following this announcement is so overwhelming that it can be practically heard at both ends of the Peace Bridge. Is.” . Such was his own relief that his statement reacting to the announcement actually broke the news – government officials had briefed some journalists but withheld the news until an expected announcement Wednesday morning.

But Higgins, whose impatience with the Biden administration on the issue has been expressed frequently and sometimes severely, quickly began to celebrate, prompting the Department of Homeland Security to confirm the announcement.

So while there is still some question about when and whether those receiving the mixed vaccine will be allowed into the US, there is a real sense that Canadians will be welcomed with open arms. As Freeland mentioned, though, the question now is whether they think they’re ready enough to make the trip.

Edward Keenan is Starr’s Washington bureau chief. He covers American politics and current affairs. Reach him via email: [email protected]

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