US set to reopen land borders for fully vaccinated travellers

The US will reopen its land borders to nonessential travel next month, ending a 19-month freeze due to the COVID-19 pandemic as the country moves to require all international visitors to be vaccinated against coronavirus.

Key points:

  • Vehicle, rail and ferry travel between the US and Canada and Mexico
  • Mexico and Canada have been pressing the US to ease the restrictions for months
  • According to officials, travellers entering the US by land will be asked about their vaccination status

Vehicle, rail and ferry travel between the US and Canada and Mexico has been largely restricted to essential travel, such as trade, since the earliest days of the pandemic.

The new rules, to be announced on Wednesday local time, will allow fully vaccinated foreign nationals to enter the US regardless of the reason for travel starting in early November, when a similar easing of restrictions is set to kick in for air travel into the country.

By mid-January, even essential travellers seeking to enter the US, such as truck drivers, will need to be fully vaccinated.

Senior administration officials previewed the new policy late on Tuesday on the condition of anonymity to speak ahead of the formal announcement.

LIVE UPDATES: Read our blog for the latest news on the COVID-19 pandemic.

Both Mexico and Canada have pressed the US for months to ease restrictions on travel that have separated families and curtailed leisure trips since the onset of the pandemic.

The latest move follows last month’s announcement the US would end country-based travel bans for air travel, and instead require vaccination for foreign nationals seeking to enter by plane.

Both policies would take effect in early November, the officials said. They did not specify a particular date.

The new rules will only apply to those legally entering the US.

Officials cautioned that those seeking to enter illegally would still be subject to expulsion under the so-called Title 42 authority, first invoked by former US president Donald Trump, which has drawn criticism from immigration advocates for swiftly removing migrants before they can seek asylum.

One of the officials said the US was continuing the policy because cramped conditions in border patrol facilities posed a COVID-19 threat.

 about the spread of COVID-19 in Australia:

Travellers to be asked about vaccination status but not tested

According to the officials, travellers 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 admissions process.

At officers’ discretion, travellers 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 travellers meet the vaccination requirement.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the US will accept travellers 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, which is widely used in Canada, will be accepted.

about the vaccine rollout:

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

The delay in the vaccination requirement for essential cross-border travel was meant to provide truck drivers and others with additional time to get a shot and minimise potential economic disruption from the vaccination mandate, officials said.

Mexico has not put in place any COVID-19 entry procedures for travellers. Canada allows entry of fully vaccinated individuals with proof of vaccination against COVID-19 as well as proof of a negative test conducted within 72 hours of entry to the country.

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AP


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