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U.S. extends border closures with Canada, Mexico until mid-June

January 31, 2020
National Institutes of Health official Dr. Anthony Fauci (C) speaks about the coronavirus during a press briefing at the White House in Washington, D.C. Health and Human Services Secretary Alexander Azar (L) announced that the United States is declaring the virus a public health emergency and issued a federal quarantine order of 14 days for 195 Americans. Photo by Leigh Vogel/UPI | License Photo

May 21 (UPI) -- The U.S. Department of Homeland Security announced the United States' borders with Canada and Mexico will remain closed to non-essential travel until at least June 21 to stymie the spread of the coronavirus.

The department announced the extension Thursday, stating it is "working closely with Canada and Mexico to safely ease restrictions as conditions improve."

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also confirmed the 30-day border closure extension in a tweet, stating the measure was being continued to "protect health and limit the spread of COVID-19."

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The U.S. federal agency had originally closed the United States borders with its neighbors to travelers in March 2020 as the coronavirus pandemic began to deepen.

Canada since early January has also been requiring all travelers to the country to provide a negative COVID-19 test before being allowed to board Canada-bound planes.

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The extension was met with criticism from Rep. Brian Higgins, R-N.Y., who called it "unacceptable" in a statement for not including exceptions for those vaccinated and without stating goals when crossings could be expanded.

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"We have made great strides in fighting the pandemic and we need to make progress on reopening the border," said Higgins, who has repeatedly voiced opposition to the closure. "That is essential to both families that have been separated for way too long and to our binational economies."

Days earlier, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce also called on its government on Tuesday to develop a plan to reopen the country, both economically and to travelers.

"Canadians also want to know when it will be safe to travel again to see friends and loved ones," the chamber said in a letter addressed to Trudeau. "To avoid rising levels of confusion and frustration, your government should collaborate with officials in the United States and other countries in setting benchmarks that would enable the easing of border restrictions and travel quarantines."

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Critics of the border closures look to increasing vaccination rates as reason to create travel exceptions for those who have been inoculated against the disease.

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The chamber said that by mid-summer, 75% of Canadian adults will have received at least one shot with 20% fully vaccinated.

According to the Our World In Data project based at the University of Oxford, the United States and Canada have a near identical share of people who have received one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine with the former at 47.59% and the latter at 47.58%. Mexico was far below with 12.5%.

Canada, with a population of some 37 million, has administered 19.44 million doses to the United States 277.2 million for its population of 331 million, it states, adding that Canada though lags well below the United States in terms of fully vaccinated people with 1.49 million to the United States 125 million. In Mexico, 11 million of its 129 million people have been fully vaccinated.

Early this month when discussing when Canada could see its border with the United States open, Trudeau said he didn't think it would be any time soon, the CBC reported.

"My gut tells me it's going to be [closed] at least well into the fall of 2021," he said.

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