The United States is set to reopen its land borders with Canada and Mexico in early November to travellers who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to U.S. officials.
Senior White House officials said details of the new rules will be announced on Wednesday, including what kind of vaccines will be accepted.
New York Rep. Brian Higgins first broke the news late Tuesday in a statement. Other U.S. lawmakers who represent northern border states like New York also issued statements celebrating the move.
“At long last, there is action by the United States to open the doors and welcome back our Canadian neighbours,” Higgins said.
Under the new rules, White House officials said, non-essential travellers will be asked about their vaccination status at land border crossings, and only those who are fully vaccinated will be allowed through. Proof of vaccination will be required if selected for random screening.
Starting in early January, the rules will also be applied to essential travellers like truckers. Officials said the phased approach will allow those workers to get vaccinated if they have not already done so.
Travellers who received any vaccines approved for emergency use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the World Health Organization will be allowed to enter the U.S.
That means Canadians who received AstraZeneca’s Vaxzevria — which has not been approved by the FDA but has been cleared by the WHO and Health Canada — will be included.
The White House officials said the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is still determining whether it will allow travellers who received a mix of COVID-19 vaccines. The CDC is also working with governments in the U.S., Canada and Mexico on what will qualify as proper documentation of travellers’ vaccination status.
U.S. extends land border rules to Canada and Mexico, eases other travel measures
The White House had already announced last month that fully vaccinated travellers will be allowed to enter the U.S. by air starting in early November. An exact date for those new rules has not yet been announced.
Canada lifted its restrictions on land border crossings in August, allowing fully vaccinated travellers to enter from the U.S. Fully vaccinated people are also allowed to enter via air travel.
The White House declined to follow suit as the fourth wave of the pandemic — fuelled by the Delta variant — saw cases and hospitalizations skyrocket in several states, with over 2,000 people dying from the virus nationwide every day on average in late September.
Over 700,000 Americans have now died from COVID-19 since the pandemic began.
U.S. extends travel restrictions at land borders
The current deadline for the U.S. to reopen its borders with Canada and Mexico is Oct. 21. The White House officials said the closure will be extended once again to the early November reopening date.
By that time, they said, more details of the new restrictions will be announced, including on what vaccine regimens are to be allowed.
More than 3.9 million Canadians have two different doses of Health Canada-approved COVID-19 vaccines, not including Quebec, which does not categorize data by vaccine product.
Of those, approximately 1.6 million had a dose of the AstraZeneca formula followed by an mRNA vaccine, data from the Public Health Agency of Canada shows.
The COVID-19 vaccines approved under the WHO’s emergency use listing have only been assessed as single product regimens, meaning people receive the same vaccine for both shots.
But the agency’s Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunization recommends mRNA vaccines — Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna — can be used as a second dose following a first one with AstraZeneca if a second shot of the same is not available.
–With files from Global’s Reggie Cecchini and the Canadian Press
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