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Dilemma lingers over Canada-US border reopening amid calls for easing restrictions

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In a bid to contain the spread of the novel Coronavirus, non-essential travel movement across the United States and Canada border has been banned since March when the pandemic outbreak began across the countries. Taking note of the prevailing fear of pandemic transmission, Washington and Ottawa are reportedly considering extending the travel ban, which was due to expire on June 21, to late July. However, no agreement has come into place between the countries.

Prolonged border restrictions are affecting the residents of the towns around the border who share social and economic with the neighbours on the other side of the boundary.  Several families were separated from their members in both the countries after border closures. Responding to their plight, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, last week, announced limited exemptions to allow immediate family members of citizens or permanent residents to enter the country. After returning, citizens will have to undergo self-quarantine for 14 days.

However, similar sentiments have yet not been expressed by the US government in easing border restrictions. Therefore, Reps. Brian Higgins and Elise Stefanik teamed up in pressing the US and Canadian government to formulate a “nuanced and particularized guidance” to reopen the northern border between the two countries. Calling attention to the crisis, Higgins and Stefanik, who are New York members of the US House of Representatives and co-chairs of the Northern Border Caucus, have written a letter to Acting U.S. homeland security secretary Chad Wolf, and Canadian minister of public safety and emergency preparedness Bill Blair.

“We appreciate that the incidence of Covid-19 at communities along the border varies and we respect the public health imperative; yet, a one-size-fits-all approach toward allowing travel across the border has the impact of keeping communities apart,” the letter reads. 

While travel non-essential services remain suspended, commercial business travel have continued between the US and Canada throughout the pandemic lockdown. 

With over 2 million Coronavirus cases reported, the United States is facing the brunt of the pandemic. Across the nation, over 116,000 people have died from COVID-19 as reported by Johns Hopkins University. As the states are easing their lockdown restrictions, public health experts have warned of a second wave of the virus and COVID-19 death will witness a spike in the months ahead. Canada, on the other hand, has reported over 97,000 infected cases, However, a piece of good news in the pandemic struggle emerged after more than 56,000 people recovered from the deadly disease.

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