Canada eyeing June 22 to begin loosening restrictions at U.S. border

The border: Canada-U.S. land crossings were shuttered March 2020 to nonessential travel in an effort to slow Covid-19’s spread.

But as vaccination rates rise, both national governments are under intensifying pressure to produce a reopening plan as a way to help struggling tourism industries and families who have been separated for more than a year. On the U.S. side, there have been calls for the Biden administration to start loosening measures at the American border without Canada, if necessary.

Since the border measures were first imposed, the countries have been renewing a bilateral, month-to-month arrangement to keep them in place. The next agreement is set to expire June 21.

Trudeau has said that before the country begins to ease public health restrictions — including those at the border — at least 75 percent of Canada’s population should have their first Covid vaccine doses and 20 percent should be fully vaccinated.

As of May 29, more than 68 percent of Canadian adults had received at least one dose, while more than 7 percent were fully vaccinated.

“The federal government’s nervous,” said Diodati, whose city relies heavily on American tourists. “They don’t want to make a mistake or misstep. We get that.”

On target: Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens, whose city is across the river from Detroit, also participated in the meeting with Blair. He told POLITICO on Monday that Blair explained to the mayors that Canada was on track to hit Trudeau’s vaccination threshold by June 21.

“It’s their belief and their projections that we can reach that target by June 21,” Dilkens said. “He said they’re looking for a phased and logical staged reopening.”

Both Dilkens and Diodati said Blair told the mayors that Canada was on pace to have 75 percent of its population fully vaccinated by July 21.

Moving in lockstep: Dilkens added that Blair said Canada is “looking for symmetry, coordination and collaboration at the border.”

“From Bill Blair’s mouth to my ears, they think the U.S. could go this alone,” Dilkens said. “If the U.S. goes this alone and they’re wide open, in the first few hours you will have thousands of Canadians from my community alone that will be crossing.”

The concern with an asymmetrical reopening is that Canadians who cross into the U.S. may still be subject to strict measures — including 14-day quarantines — upon their return.

Both mayors said that Blair spoke about the possibility of two general streams of travelers: those who are partially vaccinated and those who are fully vaccinated. Dilkens said one example noted that travelers with only partial vaccination would face more restrictions.

Trudeau on the border: The prime minister offered new details earlier Monday about Canada’s thoughts about the border.

“We are looking at how we’re going to start welcoming up tourists in a phased way as the numbers come down in Canada, as the numbers start to come down in the United States and elsewhere around the world,” Trudeau told a virtual event hosted by the St. John’s Board of Trade.

He added that Canada needs to make sure travelers are fully vaccinated before they enter the country. Trudeau also noted the concerns around the variants that are still creating challenges in places like India and the United Kingdom.

“We don’t want to risk further outbreaks — a fourth wave would be devastating, not just to the economy but to morale.”

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