“When you are vaccinated you are highly protected from giving or receiving [Covid-19]”Said Higgins in an interview.” Even if it’s only 5 percent of Canada’s population, they should be able to cross the border. “Same goes for the US.”
Border check-in: The border restrictions were difficult on both sides – affecting business, tourism and family reunification. There is no clear timeline for when they will be withdrawn as Canada’s vaccination campaign follows the US rollout and is dealing with a third wave.
On Thursday the US Department of Homeland Security announced the latest expansion in the monthly agreement while maintaining the border restrictions.
Higgins’ search comes 14 months after measures were imposed on the border in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. During the pandemic, Higgins said the public had been told that vaccine availability was the tipping point.
“Of course we’re frustrated, but we have to keep trying,” he said. “It’s a shame the Biden administration hasn’t made any further progress … Here we are, no plan. And just to arbitrarily say the border will stay closed without seeing if the following things go right – it’s just ridiculous. “
The argument: Higgins, who is also co-chair of the Canada-US Inter-Parliamentary Group, urges Biden and Trudeau to follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines when considering the future of the border.
The CDC website says “a growing body of evidence suggests that fully vaccinated people are less likely to have or transmit asymptomatic infection” Covid-19. It also states that fully vaccinated people no longer need to wear a mask or physical distance in any setting unless required by law.
Canada’s approach was different and the Canadian Public Health Agency followed World Health Organization guidelines. The Government guidance recalls the WHO recommendation that “vaccinated travelers should not be exempted from entry and quarantine requirements at this time”.
What Trudeau says: On Tuesday, the Prime Minister suggested that life in Canada would feel more familiar by the fall, including at the border.
“We know cases need to be controlled before we can get back to normal and that over 75 percent of people need to be vaccinated before we can start easing things in Canada,” Trudeau told reporters. “We’ll see what framework we use to keep Canadians safe, even as we try to change restrictions and attitudes on the border.”
Political pressure: Higgins, who represents Buffalo and Niagara Falls, said Canada may not even get the 75 percent vaccination rate.
“The Canadian prime minister can talk about anything he wants to get 75 percent fully vaccinated – that’s probably not going to happen,” he said. “They say the border will never open … I think if people don’t know what to do, they don’t do anything … To me that is unacceptable.”
A senior Canadian government insider said official talks were ongoing to lift the border restrictions, but no decisions were expected in the short term. With Canada’s increasing vaccination efforts, official figures say that stricter rules could ease over the course of the summer.
Trudeau has faced domestic pressures, including from provincial leaders such as Ontario Prime Minister Doug Ford, to maintain border measures while the country tackles the third wave and vaccines catch-up.
When asked about the clash between Ford and Trudeau across Canada’s borders, Higgins said, “They talk past each other because what they are proposing doesn’t make sense.”
“They just don’t seem to understand that the vaccine is so effective,” he said. “As they say, the border will be closed forever.”
Cross-border vaccine appointments: Higgins has also urged Governor Andrew Cuomo to open Covid-19 vaccine appointments for Canadians in New York State. He wants New York to follow suit other states, including Montanaby allowing Canadian citizens to receive the vaccine.
The requests and reports from people crossing the border to take their pictures come in the middle Confusion over whether Canadians are allowed to cross the US border at all be vaccinated.
A spokesman for the US Customs and Border Protection told POLITICO on Thursday that the border would only be restricted to essential travel.
“If a person enters the US for legitimate travel reasons, as permitted under current restriction guidelines, and receives a vaccine associated with their travel, it is not part of the general eligibility rule,” the CBP said. “Travel for the sole purpose of vaccination is not permitted under current travel restrictions.”
Higgins rejected the argument, saying the precedent had been set in several other states.
“They’re already crossing,” he said of Canadians looking for bumps. “They’re already cruising in North Dakota, they’re already cruising in four other states. So that’s bullshit, to be honest.”