The federal government will extend the Canada-U.S. land border closure for another 30 days until Sept. 21, Public Safety Minister Bill Blair said Friday.
The closure to non-essential travel has been in place for months, but with caseloads still high in many U.S. states, the two governments have mutually agreed to continue restricting movement across the world’s longest international border.
“We will continue to do what’s necessary to keep our communities safe,” Blair said in a tweet.
The closure has resulted in a dramatic drop in traffic between the two countries although essential workers — like truck drivers and health-care professionals — are still able to cross by land despite the restrictions. Canadians are still able to fly to U.S. destinations.
The federal government has also moved to curb the movement of Americans through Canada who are ostensibly on their way to Alaska. U.S. travellers destined for the northern state have been limited to five crossings in Western Canada and they must commit to taking a direct route.
We are extending the reciprocal restrictions at the Canada-US border for another 30 days, till Sept. 21, 2020. We will continue to do what’s necessary to keep our communities safe.
Dr. Theresa Tam, the chief public health officer of Canada, says the government will continue to monitor epidemiological data on both sides of the border before making a decision to open the country to more U.S. travellers.
Tam said she didn’t want to see a spike in cases related to the U.S. after Canada has been able to flatten the infection curve with aggressive public health measures.
“We want to keep up our good work and, as you’ve seen from the map, Canada is actually in quite a good position right now,” she told reporters Friday.
Brian Higgins, a Democratic congressman for the New York district that includes Buffalo and the Niagara area, said he was disappointed but not surprised that the border closure was extended.
“I have been working with Canadian officials at the federal level for several months toward the goal of getting a mutually agreed-to plan to open the border or, short of that, expanding the category of who is an essential traveller,” said Higgins, who was among nearly two dozen members of Congress to sign a letter in July calling for a plan to reopen the border.
“But I have come to realize that the Canadian federal government response to COVID-19 was early, strong and united. The American federal government response was slow, chaotic and adversarial.”
Higgins said he doesn’t think Washington wants to keep the border closed but doesn’t have much choice.
Meanwhile, he said the border closure is having an impact on his district.
“We have, in Buffalo and western New York, two professional sports franchises — the NFL Buffalo Bills, the NHL Buffalo Sabres — highly dependent on the Canadian season ticket-holders for those two franchises. Forty-five percent of our business at the Buffalo-Niagara international airport is citizens from Canada — by and large from Ontario. Our retail economy is highly dependent on the Canadian shopper. Canadians spend $10 million a year on health care in western New York,” he said.
“All of this has obviously come to a screaming halt.”