Publication:

The Hamilton Spectator - 2021-10-14

Data:

Canadians cheer, Freeland cautious as U.S. plans to open land border

CANADA & WORLD

JAMES MCCARTEN

WASHINGTON — A motley coalition of elected officials, bilateral business leaders and travellersturned-lobbyists briefly cheered the coming reprieve from restrictions at the Canada-U.S. border Wednesday before confronting their next challenge: the question of mixed-dose vaccinations. The plan for early November, spelled out by senior Biden administration officials as well as Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, was short on key details, most notably whether the U.S. will consider the many Canadians who received two different vaccines to be fully vaccinated. “Cross-border travel creates significant economic activity in our border communities and benefits our broader economy. We are pleased to be taking steps to resume regular travel in a safe and sustainable manner,” Mayorkas said in a statement. “This new travel system will create consistent, stringent protocols for all foreign nationals travelling to the United States — whether by air, land, or ferry — and accounts for the wide availability of COVID-19 vaccinations.” U.S. officials say experts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are actively exploring the issue of whether to allow travellers who received a mix of vaccines. Ottawa has also been actively lobbying the White House on the issue, including with the Public Health Agency of Canada’s own research on the effectiveness of mixed doses. That question, along with the absence of a hard start date beyond early November and a lack of specificity on what kind of paperwork travellers will be required to show, dampened the enthusiasm for an announcement people on both sides of the border have been waiting to hear for months. “The job is not finished,” said Perrin Beatty, president and chief executive officer of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce. “The two governments need to work together to ensure that fully vaccinated Canadians with mixed-dose combinations are eligible for entry into the United States.” New York congressman Brian Higgins, whose crusade against the travel restrictions has made him the movement’s de facto spiritual leader, acknowledged that the White House needs to clarify precisely how it intends to define a fully vaccinated traveller. “That is one of the issues that we’re trying to get clarification on,” Higgins told a news conference. “That’s one of those outstanding issues and still needs to be addressed.” The U.S. will not be requiring travellers to show proof of a negative test for COVID-19, unlike Canada, which includes a recent negative PCR test among the requirements for everyone entering the country, including Canadian citizens and permanent residents. Beatty also called on Canada to eliminate the need for a predeparture test, as well as to work with the U.S. on an interoperable vaccine certification system in order to deal with anticipated higher travel volumes. Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland, who happened to be in Washington on Wednesday, warned Canadians not to let down their guard just yet. “We have almost — almost — gotten past COVID,” Freeland said. “Just try to do the things you need to do, and maybe hold back on doing the things that you just want to do. I think if we can keep on doing that for a few more weeks, Canada can really fully put COVID behind us.”

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