Wednesday, June 23, 2021

#1 Priority is Keep Canadians Safe:
Crack open the door:
Rules about the border should
let fully vaccinated people cross

This news really didn’t come as a surprise, but many expressed their disappointment at Canadian authorities who said last week they wouldn’t loosen border restrictions until at least another month. After discussing the situation with President Joe Biden during the recent G-7 summit, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau declined to revise the rules for cross-border traffic that have been in place for more than a year. Canadian Public Safety Minister William Blair made the announcement Friday in two tweets:

“Our number one priority as we fight -COVID19 is keeping Canadians safe. In coordination with the U.S., we are extending restrictions on non-essential international travel and with the United States until July 21st, 2021.... As we have said, the government is planning measures for fully vaccinated Canadians, Permanent Residents, and others who are currently permitted to enter Canada and will provide further details on Monday, June 21.”

Trudeau said he won’t consider easing requirements for crossing the border until at least 75% of Canada’s citizens receive at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccination. As of Sunday, this number was 66.8%.

“On this issue, Trudeau appears to have the support of everyday Canadians. Over the last several months, multiple surveys from a variety of pollsters have demonstrated that the majority of Canadians would rather be safe than sorry,” according to a story published Friday by Forbes. “One survey last month from the Angus Reid Institute showed that only one in four Canadians (23%) think the border should reopen immediately, while 29% say restrictions should ease sometime this summer and nearly half (48%) believe it would be best to wait until at least September.”

Closing the border to all non-essential traffic has hurt many companies and families in Western New York. Merchants and those in the tourism industry rely on Canadian visitors to help boost the local economy. Individuals who own property in both countries have been prevented from getting together with loved ones and attending to both of their residences.

It’s understandable that public health officials want to ensure the well-being of their constituents as they weigh options. The novel coronavirus pandemic has been unlike most of us have seen in our lifetimes, and hazards persist.But these risks are substantially lower for people who have been fully vaccinated. They’re much less likely to spread the virus to others or suffer from its effects.

Ambarish Chandra, an economics professor at the University of Toronto, acknowledged in an article published June 14 by The Globe and Mail that he agreed with the Canadian government’s decision last year to close the border to non-essential travel. The Trump administration was not doing enough to effectively confront the pandemic, he said.

“That position is now out-of-date. The Biden administration responsibly tackled the virus from the start with a rapid, efficient and largely equitable vaccination plan,” he wrote. “It was obvious as early as February that the United States’s headstart on vaccines would sharply reduce community transmission. Indeed, by April, per capita cases in the U.S. fell below ours. That would have been a reasonable time to discuss reopening the border.”

Chandra proposed that fully vaccinated people be allowed to cross the border, and he’s correct. Both the Canadian and U.S. governments should devise a plan for verifying vaccine credentials and permitting more travel. They could use rapid coronavirus testing methods to make better assessments of who may be infected and keep them out. Canada had a sluggish rollout for its vaccination program, but it shouldn’t continue to punish those who have become immunized. Chandra made excellent points that apply to both nations:

“Fully vaccinated travelers pose virtually no risk to Canada. But family reunification, border tourism and the livelihoods of small and large businesses are all at risk from Canada’s arbitrary border policies. We must immediately allow all vaccinated travelers to enter Canada freely.”
Courtesy of The Daily News Editorial Dept.

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