The Biden administration has signaled that it will extend non-essential travel restrictions at the northern and southern borders of the United States that were put in place over a year ago to stem the spread of COVID for an additional 30 days. 19.
Although the restrictions were due to expire on Wednesday, they are now expected to last until August 21, unless changed otherwise.
The move comes amid mounting pressure on President Joe Biden to ease travel restrictions in the event of a pandemic as other countries have started to abandon them for Americans. Biden promised more clarity on the matter during a meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel last week, after raising the issue.
Canada announced on Monday that it will let fully vaccinated Americans cross its border for non-essential purposes starting August 9. White House press secretary Jen Psaki said on the same day that any change in travel restrictions on the US side of the border would be “guided by our public health and medical experts.”
“I wouldn’t look at it through reciprocal intent,” Psaki said.
In notices due for publication Thursday in the Federal Register, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas noted that there had been “positive developments” in the coronavirus crisis, such as the fact that nearly 60% of American adults are now fully vaccinated.
However, Mayorkas said the risk of transmission between the United States, Canada and Mexico still poses a “specific threat to human life or national interests”, citing new variants that are more easily transmitted.
Only travel deemed “essential” will be allowed across the US border with the two countries. Essential travel includes returning U.S. citizens and people traveling to the United States for medical treatment, to attend educational institutions, or to work in essential industries, such as public health and agriculture. Cross-border trade is also included.
Democratic Representative Brian Higgins, whose northern New York district includes Buffalo and Niagara Falls, said Wednesday he was “furious” at the decision to extend travel restrictions, calling it “completely unnecessary.”
“For months, people and businesses along the border have been straining month after month with hopes of the border reopening,” Higgins said in a statement.
“While the United States does nothing, loved ones remain separate and communities whose economies rely on cross-border trade continue to suffer economically,” he continued. “Continuing this shutdown is illogical given the success of vaccines and counterproductive putting the United States at a disadvantage given Canada’s decision to re-welcome vaccinated Americans.”
During bilateral talks in Washington, Merkel insisted with Biden on when non-U.S. Citizens could resume traveling from Europe to the United States. Biden said discussions about when the restrictions would be lifted are “ongoing now” and he expects to be able to offer a clearer answer “in the next few days.”
“I am awaiting news from our members of our COVID team to find out when this should be done,” he said.
The European Union announced in June that it would lift restrictions on Americans entering the bloc, whether or not they were vaccinated. At the time, European Commission spokesman Adalbert Jahnz told reporters that his side had “been assured that this was an issue of high priority for the US administration”, in the goal of achieving a “durable” solution.
The restrictions in Canada and Mexico initially came into effect on March 24, 2020, in response to the growing threat COVID-19 posed to public health. Former President Donald Trump first banned travelers from the EU on March 12, 2020.
Calling all HuffPost superfans!
Sign up to become a founding member and help shape the next chapter of HuffPost