Sources: US TODAY, Detroit Free Press, CDC, NYT | As the Coronavirus pandemic continues to spread worldwide, many countries are implementing cross-border restrictions in order to protect themselves from the spread of the virus. Nations including the US, China, and those in the EU have previously implemented global travel bans, and within our own country there exist cross-state travel guidelines for people traveling from areas with a high concentration of cases. On a broader scale, however, many countries — including Canada — are now opting to restrict bi-national borders as another method of containing the Coronavirus.
On October 2nd, four American senators formally asked the President to reopen the Canadian border to the US on the grounds that Canada no longer posed a safety risk to Americans. The senators, Susan Collins of Maine (Rep.), Angus King of Maine (Indep.), Jeanne Shaheen of NH (Dem.) and Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire (Dem.) proposed that the restrictions between the two nations be officiated on a regional rather than national level.
The proposed re-opening or loosening of restrictions comes as Canada’s coronavirus cases have been on the rise since August; however, certain provinces have done a sufficiently effective job of handing the virus that would allow for cross-travel into the US. Although they’re currently increasing, Canadian cases are only at about 2,000 per day, compared to the US’s 30-50,000 per day. Additionally, parts of the Québec province are proactively closing up again as infection rates increase.
Both American national borders, the US-Canada and US-Mexico borders, have been closed officially since March 21st as an effort to protect Americans from contacting others with the virus. The US-Canada border closure specifically was the source of controversy for people on both sides; however, recent political developments have been hinting at a possible early opening before the extended official October 21 reopening date (which was announced on September 18th).
The US-Canadian border, which has been formally closed since March 21st, is one of the longest and most “open” land borders in the world. It was created in 1783 and the present-day border in its entirety was finalized in 1908. Thirteen US states border Canada, which has become a frequent weekend destination for Americans who live in upstate New York, Michigan, and parts of Vermont/New Hampshire.
The border closure sparked conflicts early on precisely because of this proximity: Americans who used to be able to casually cross the border for a weekend vacation are angered by these new restrictions. Additionally, many American-Canadian couples have expressed their dismay at being stranded across a border which can only be crossed for “essential visit purposes.” In Canada, worries about reckless Americans transmission of the virus have led to stress and paranoia. Several Americans who were legally in Canada reported their cars and license plates being vandalized in August, and Canadians have begun to report illegally “trespassing” Americans starting to the federal government.
Regardless of the current situation, one thing is clear: during such a difficult time, it’s critical that effective leadership and diplomatic negotiation will be necessary to facilitate peaceful relations between the people of two nations. Hopefully, as the year progresses, these restrictions will ease up and more families and couples will be able to reunite legally.