by Zeke Miller and Elliot Spagett
SAN DIEGO (AP) – Business owners and families torn apart by COVID-19 restrictions rejoiced Wednesday when the US said it would reopen its land borders to non-essential travel next month, Will end the 19-month freeze.
Travel across land borders from Canada and Mexico is largely restricted to workers whose jobs are deemed essential. The new rules will allow fully vaccinated foreign nationals to enter the US regardless of cause starting in early November, when a similar easing of restrictions for air travel is introduced. By mid-January, essential travelers such as truck drivers wishing to enter the US will also need to be fully vaccinated.
Shopping malls and big box retailers in US border towns whose parking spaces were filled with cars with Mexican license plates were hit hard by the travel restrictions.
San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria said the economic impact was hard to measure but could be seen in the sparse presence of shoppers at a high-end outlet mall on the city’s border with Tijuana, Mexico. This decision comes at a crucial time before the holiday shopping season.
In Nogales, Arizona, travel restrictions forced about 40 retail businesses to close on the main strip in the city of 20,000 people, said Jesse Fontes, board member of the Nogales-Santa Cruz County Chamber of Commerce and owner of Mariposa Liquidation Stores, One who sells home appliances. His sales fell 60%, and he considered closing but instead reduced his workforce from seven to two.
In Del Rio, Texas, Mexican visitors account for about 65% of retail sales, said Blanca Larson, executive director of the Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Bureau in the city of 35,000 people.
“With the border, we are more like one community than two separate communities,” she said.
The ban has also had wider social and cultural implications, preventing family gatherings when relatives live on different sides of the border. Community events have come to a standstill even as cities far from the US borders move towards normalcy.
In Salt Stay. The Sue Eagles haven’t played a home game against a Canadian opponent in 20 months, in Mary, Michigan, where hockey and ice skating are included. Players aged 17 to 20 have been traveling to Canada since border restrictions were lifted two months ago. Now the US team can host.
“I almost collapsed when I read this,” said Eagles co-owner Ron Lavin. “It has been a long frustrating journey for people on far more serious fronts than in hockey, but we are very happy indeed. It’s great for the city.”
Fully vaccinated US citizens and permanent residents have been allowed into Canada from August, provided they have waited at least two weeks since receiving their second vaccine dose and were recently negative for COVID-19. To show proof of test. Mexico has not implemented a COVID-19 entry procedure for land travelers.
The latest move comes after last month’s announcement that the US would end country-based travel restrictions for air travel and instead require vaccinations for foreign nationals wishing to enter by plane.
The new rules only apply to legal entry. Those who enter illegally will still be subject to expulsion under a public health authority that allows migrants to be swiftly removed before refugees seek asylum.
Passengers entering the US by vehicle, rail and ferry will be asked about their vaccination status as part of standard US Customs and Border Protection inspections. At the discretion of the authorities, passengers will have proof of vaccination verified in a secondary screening process.
Unlike air travel, which requires proof of a negative COVID-19 test before boarding a flight to enter the US, no test will be required to enter the US by land or sea, Provided the passenger meets the vaccination requirement.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the US will accept travelers who have been fully vaccinated with any vaccine approved for emergency use by the World Health Organization, not just those in US means That the AstraZeneca vaccine, widely used in Canada, would be accepted.
Officials said the CDC was still working to formalize procedures for accepting those receiving doses of two different vaccines, as was fairly common in Canada.
US Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Meyerkas said he was “delighted to take steps to resume regular travel in a safe and sustainable manner” and lauded its economic benefits.
Elected officials in Mexico, Canada and the US border regions have pressured the Biden administration for months to ease restrictions.
“It’s a victory for families that have been separated and for businesses and tourism industries whose operations have been blocked since the start of the pandemic,” said US Sen. Gene Shaheen of New Hampshire, the other federal, Echoing reactions from state and local officials.
Mexico’s President Andres Manuel López Obrador said “there were several meetings to open the border.” Canada’s Minister of Public Safety Bill Blair called the announcement “another step towards a return to normalcy”.
Since the pandemic, cross-border traffic has declined, according to data from the US Department of Transportation.
The number of vehicular passengers entering the US at Niagara Falls, New York – the busiest land crossing at the Canadian border – fell 83% in 2020 to 1.7 million and remains low this year.
“Losing those customers over the past 18 months has been one of the primary reasons for our hotels, restaurants and attractions,” said Patrick Kler, president and chief executive of Buffalo Niagara, the region’s tourism agency.
San Diego’s San Ysidro border crossing, the nation’s busiest, crossing fell 30% last year to 18 million. Taxi drivers were largely inactive on a nearby bridge on Wednesday, including one who was exercising.
COVID-19 cases in the US have dropped to around 85,000 per day, the lowest level since July. Case rates per capita in Canada and Mexico have been significantly lower than those in the US for the duration of the pandemic, adding to the frustration about US travel restrictions.
Miller reported from Washington. Associated Press writer Rob Gillies in Toronto; Juan A. Lozano in Houston; Wilson Ring in Montpellier, Vermont; Ed White in Detroit, Anita Snow in Phoenix, Caroline Thompson in Buffalo, New York, Alexis Triboulard in Mexico City and Julie Watson in San Diego contributed.