December 11, 2020
By David Shepardson
WASHINGTON (Reuters) -U.S. land borders with Canada and Mexico will remain closed to non-essential travel until at least Jan. 21 with coronavirus cases spiking to record numbers across the country, U.S. and Canadian officials said on Friday.
The decision means it will be up to the administration of President-elect Joe Biden to determine when it will drop the restrictions, first imposed in March to control the spread of the virus. Acting U.S. Homeland Security Department Secretary Chad Wolf said on Twitter the latest one-month extension was to “continue to prevent the spread of COVID.”
Canada’s Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Bill Blair confirmed the extension. “Our decisions will continue to be based on the best public health advice available to keep Canadians safe,” Blair wrote on Twitter.
Biden will take office on Jan. 20.
Canada has shown little interest in lifting the restrictions as the virus runs rampant across the United States. U.S. officials had previously sought some revisions especially for restrictions impacting residents along the Canadian border.
The United States recorded more than 200,000 COVID-19 cases per day for four straight days, according to a Reuters tally of official data. A record 3,253 U.S. deaths were reported on Wednesday.
The United States has reported about 15.6 million cases and 292,642 deaths since the start of the pandemic. By contrast, Canada has had about 442,000 confirmed cases with just over 13,100 deaths.
Statistics Canada said in October that August visits to Canada by car by U.S. travelers were down 95.7%, and the number of U.S. travelers to Canada by plane fell by 97.9%.
U.S. President Donald Trump has been considering lifting restrictions that ban most non-U.S. travelers from the United Kingdom, Ireland, Brazil, and the 26 countries in the so-called Schengen border-free area of Europe.
Reuters first reported on Nov. 25 the White House was considering rescinding the European and Brazilian entry bans.
The plan won the backing of White House coronavirus task-force members, public health and other federal agencies.
Trump may still opt not to lift the restrictions, given the high number of coronavirus infections in Europe. One potential hurdle is the fact that European countries are not likely to immediately allow most Americans to resume visits, officials said.
(Reporting by David Shepardson, Editing by Rosalba O’Brien, Bill Berkrot and Richard Chang)
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