The United States will lift restrictions at its land border with Canada, allowing fully vaccinated travellers to enter the country starting in early November.
U.S. Homeland Security secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said in a statement released Tuesday that the government will begin allowing travellers from Mexico and Canada to enter the U.S. for non-essential purposes, ending the unprecedented border restrictions that have been in place since March 2020.
"In alignment with the new international air travel system that will be implemented in November, we will begin allowing travellers from Mexico and Canada who are fully vaccinated for COVID-19 to enter the United States for non-essential purposes, including to visit friends and family or for tourism, via land and ferry border crossings,” Mayorkas said. “Cross-border travel creates significant economic activity in our border communities and benefits our broader economy. We are pleased to be taking steps to resume regular travel in a safe and sustainable manner.”
Mayorkas did not provide an exact date for when the border will reopen. Travellers will be required to show appropriate paperwork that provides proof of vaccination, and those that have not been fully vaccinated will not be allowed to travel for non-essential purposes.
In order to be considered fully vaccinated, travellers must have received a full course of a COVID-19 vaccine approved by either the U.S. Food and Drug Administration or the World Health Organization. That includes Oxford-AstraZeneca, a vaccine used in Canada that never received FDA approval. It's unclear whether people who received mixed doses of COVID-19 vaccines will be considered fully vaccinated by the U.S. administration.
The U.S. closed its land border to Canada in March 2020 when the coronavirus pandemic struck. While Canada reopened its border to fully vaccinated U.S. travellers in August, the U.S. held off on reciprocating the border opening.
New York Rep. Brian Higgins, who has been advocating that the U.S. open its border to Canadians for months, welcomed the news, calling the previous restrictions "absurd and unjustifiable."
"For months now we've heard from businesses that are suffering and families distraught over the separation imposed by the continued border shutdown," Higgins said in a statement.
"The sigh of relief coming from the northern border communities following this announcement is so loud it can practically be heard on either end of the Peace Bridge."
Sarnia, Ont. mayor Mike Bradley said Wednesday that he believes that Canadians will still be cautious about driving to the U.S. for day trips, given there are looser public health measures and higher COVID-19 case counts in some parts of the country.
"I just need to make sure that all the things will be in place to protect people when they go there and come back," Bradley said.
"I do not see a lot of people wanting to go over on day tripping for some time to come because of what's happening in places like Michigan and elsewhere, where there are no restrictions on masking and gathering and things like that."
With files from the Canadian Press
Alicja Siekierska is a senior reporter at Yahoo Finance Canada. Follow her on Twitter @alicjawithaj.