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The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) today announced that the U.S.’ land borders with both Canada and Mexico will remain closed to all nonessential travel through at least June 21. As before, trade transportation and other essential crossings will still be sanctioned.
This marks the fourteenth time that the respective bilateral travel bans between the U.S. and its North American neighbors have been extended on a monthly basis since initially being implemented in March 2020 as part of efforts to curb the spread of COVID-19.
In its revelatory tweet, the DHS did note that it is, “working closely with Canada & Mexico to safely ease restrictions as conditions improve,” though no solid plans have emerged thus far for the rollback of restrictions.
While the U.S. still leads the world in terms of total COVID-19 cases, its infection rates are now steadily falling as vaccination rates climb. Last year, Canada appeared to have retained better control over the virus’ spread; but, in recent months, the country saw a major spike in new cases, prompting the Canadian government to toughen travel restrictions, including requiring negative COVID-19 tests for all inbound air travelers and mandating hotel quarantines.
In an abundance of caution, our northern neighbor has also banned all cruise large ships sailing in Canadian waters through the end of February 2022. As this move would have prevented all cruises from the U.S. mainland to Alaska for the 2021 summer season, the U.S. Senate last week passed the Alaska Tourism Restoration Act, which will enable cruise ships to operate in Alaska without stopping in Canadian ports, as was previously required under law.
The Canadian government appears to be in no rush to reopen the borders, based on some of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s previous statements on the subject. Last week, he told the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation that he would prefer to wait on fully reopening the U.S.-Canada border until 75 percent of his nation’s population has been vaccinated.
As of Thursday, 48 percent of Canadians have received at least their initial dose of a vaccine, according to USA Today. “My gut tells me it’s going to be (closed) at least well into the fall of 2021,” Trudeau also predicted one week prior.
To fight #COVID19 spread and protect our citizens, the U.S. is continuing restrictions on non-essential travel at land borders through June 21, while allowing essential trade & travel. We’re working closely with Canada & Mexico to safely ease restrictions as conditions improve.
— Homeland Security (@DHSgov) May 20, 2021
The Mexican government has been lax in terms of border enforcement on U.S. travelers crossing over into Mexico’s northern border cities. Since the start of the pandemic, Mexico never actually closed to air travel from other countries, and many Americans have been vacationing south of the border amid COVID-19, as other destinations remained shuttered.
However, it was announced last week that the state of Quintana Roo—home to popular tourism spots like Cancún, Cozumel, Riviera Maya and Tulum—was in danger of “imminent lockdown” because of a spike in new cases in the region over the five weeks prior. Governor Carlos Joaquín said he believed that a surge in tourism seen over the spring break weeks and Easter contributed to the uptick in infections.
USA Today reported that anecdotal evidence suggests that pandemic-era travelers are particularly drawn to Mexico’s Caribbean coastal resorts and destinations, at least partially, because their COVID-targeted health and safety measures remain largely voluntary, and there has been no lockdown in the region. Reportedly, many tourists remove their masks the moment they reach their hotels or beach clubs.