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Border residents rejoice as US says it will lift travel ban


Nepalnews
2021 Oct 14, 7:27, SAN DIEGO

Beleaguered business owners and families separated by COVID-19 restrictions rejoiced Wednesday after the US said it will reopen its land borders to nonessential travel next month, ending a 19-month freeze.

Travel across land borders from Canada and Mexico has been largely restricted to workers whose jobs are deemed essential. New rules will allow fully vaccinated foreign nationals to enter the US  regardless of the reason starting in early November when a similar easing of restrictions is set for air travel. By mid-January, even essential travelers seeking to enter the US, such as truck drivers, will need to be fully vaccinated.

Shopping malls and big-box retailers in US border towns whose parking spaces had been filled by cars with Mexican license plates were hit hard by travel restrictions.

San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria said the economic impact was hard to quantify but can be seen in the sparse presence of shoppers at a high-end outlet mall on the city’s border with Tijuana, Mexico. The decision comes at a critical time ahead of 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 Jessy Fontes, board member of the Nogales-Santa Cruz County Chamber of Commerce and owner of Mariposa Liquidation Store, which sells household appliances. His sales fell 60 percent and he considered closing but instead cut his staff from seven to two.

In Del Rio, Texas, Mexican visitors account for about 65 percent  of retail sales, said Blanca Larson, executive director of the chamber of commerce and visitors bureau in the city of 35,000 people.

“Along the border, we’re like more of one community than two different communities,” she said.

The ban has also had an enormous social and cultural impact, preventing family gatherings when relatives live on different sides of the border. Community events have stalled even as cities away from US borders have inched toward normalcy.

In Sault Ste Marie, Michigan, where hockey and ice skating are ingrained, the Soo Eagles haven’t had a home game against a Canadian opponent in 20 months. The players, 17 to 20 years old, have been traveling to Canada since border restrictions were lifted there two months ago. Now the US team can host.

“I almost fell over when I read it,” said Ron Lavin, co-owner of the Eagles. “It’s been a long frustrating journey for people on a lot of fronts far more serious than hockey, but we’re just really pleased. It’s great for the city.”

Fully vaccinated US citizens and permanent residents have been allowed into Canada since August, provided they have waited at least two weeks since getting their second vaccine dose and can show proof of a recent negative COVID-19 test. Mexico has not enforced COVID-19 entry procedures for land travelers.

The latest move follows last month’s announcement that the US will end country-based travel bans for air travel and instead require vaccination for foreign nationals seeking 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 for the swift removal of migrants before they can seek asylum.

Travelers entering the US by vehicle, rail, and ferry will be asked about their vaccination status as part of the standard US  Customs and Border Protection inspection. At officers’ discretion, travelers will have their proof of vaccination verified in a secondary screening process.

Unlike air travel, for which proof of a negative COVID-19 test is required before boarding a flight to enter the US, no testing will be required to enter the US by land or sea, provided the travelers meet the vaccination requirement.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the US  will accept travelers who have been fully vaccinated with any of the vaccines approved for emergency use by the World Health Organization, not just those in use in the US  That means that the AstraZeneca vaccine, widely used in Canada, will be accepted.

Officials said the CDC was still working to formalize procedures for admitting those who received doses of two different vaccines, as was fairly common in Canada.

US  Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said he was “pleased to be taking steps to resume regular travel in a safe and sustainable manner” and lauded the economic benefits of it.

Mexico, Canada, and elected officials from US border regions have pressured the Biden administration for months to ease restrictions.

“This is a win for families who’ve been separated and businesses and tourism industries whose operations have been blocked since the start of the pandemic,” said US  Sen Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire, echoing reactions of other federal, state, and local officials.

Mexico President Andres Manuel López Obrador said it took “many meetings to achieve the opening of the border.” Bill Blair, Canada’s minister of public safety, called the announcement “one more step toward returning to normal.”

Cross-border traffic has plummeted since the pandemic, according to US Department of Transportation figures.

The number of vehicle passengers entering the US in Niagara Falls, New York — the busiest land crossing on the Canadian border — fell 83 percent to 1.7 million in 2020 and has remained low this year.

“Losing those customers over the last 18 months has been one of the primary reasons our hotels, restaurants, and attractions have been suffering,” said Patrick Kaler, president and chief executive of Visit Buffalo Niagara, the area’s tourism agency.

At San Diego’s San Ysidro border crossing, the nation’s busiest, crossings dropped 30 percent last year to 18 million. Taxi drivers were largely idled Wednesday on a nearby bridge, including one who did exercises.

COVID-19 cases in the US have dropped to about 85,000 per day, the lowest level since July. Per capita case rates in Canada and Mexico have been markedly lower than in the US for the duration of the pandemic, which amplified frustrations about the US  travel restrictions.

READ ALSO:

San Diego US Travel Ban border covid-19 restrictions Canada Mexico US Border vaccinated

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