A senior White House official announced Tuesday that the United States will open its land borders with Mexico and Canada to non-essential travelers who have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 in early November.
The official said the administration will give an “exact date very soon” – for both land crossings as well as international air travel, which will be the time to “go together”.
The United States already announced in September that it would lift a ban in November on all vaccinated air travelers who undergo testing and contact tracing.
In an effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus, US borders were closed to travelers from the EU, UK and China in March 2020, with India and Brazil later adding to the list. Overland visitors from Mexico and Canada were also banned.
Nearly 19 months of sanctions resulted in both personal and financial hardships.
The White House source said the reopening of the land border would happen in two phases.
Initially, vaccines will be required for “non-essential” trips – such as visiting family or tours – although unvaccinated travelers will still be allowed into the country for “essential” trips as they have for the past year and a half.
“Early January” Phase II starting in 2022 will require all visitors to the United States to be fully vaccinated, regardless of their reason for travel.
“This phased approach will provide enough time for essential passengers such as truck drivers or others to be vaccinated, which will allow easy transition to the new system,” the official said.
The new schedule means that the land border restrictions, which are currently set to expire on October 21, will have to be extended one more time before the new rules come into force, the official indicated.
Mexico applauded Washington’s decision. President Andres Manuel López Obrador called it “good news”, while Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard said it would allow “activating and accelerating economic growth in Mexico’s northern border region”.
The senior official pointed to recent recommendations from US health officials for guidance on which vaccines would allow travelers to enter.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said last week that all vaccines approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the World Health Organization (WHO) would be accepted for air entry, the official said.
“While the CDC has not made a final determination here, I expect it to be the same for land travel,” the official said, explaining that the AstraZeneca vaccine, which will not be administered in the United States, will be accepted. .
The official said the change in the rule would be applicable only on legal land crossings in the country.
“Title 42” – the controversial Trump-era rule issued by the Biden administration that allows illegal crossings to be deported for public health reasons – will remain in place, the official said.
The White House cited Title 42 when thousands of Haitians who gathered at the US-Mexico border last month were deported after critics say the law unfairly restricts asylum seekers.
A White House official said Tuesday that details are still being worked out to allow vaccinated air travelers to enter the United States, including plans to conduct contact tracing on such visitors. The official said that the passengers will also be tested for coronavirus.
(Except for the title, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)