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Some experts suggest Canada-U.S. border can reopen safely amid COVID-19 pandemic

Last Updated Sep 28, 2020 at 10:13 am PDT

FILE -- U.S. Customs officers stand beside a sign saying that the U.S. border is closed at the U.S./Canada border in Lansdowne, Ont., on March 22, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS IMAGES/Lars Hagberg
Summary

Some experts say the Canada-U.S. land border can reopen amid the COVID-19 pandemic, but other measures are needed

Border remains closed to all non-essential traffic until at least Oct. 21

Number of cases of COVID-19 continues to rise in Canada, but U.S. is seeing a larger spike

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – There are few policies a government can make that have proven as popular as the move to close the Canada-U.S. land border.

However, there is work under way to find out how we can open things up again safely amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Some experts say it’s possible to reopen the border, but that will mean other measures are required.

The closure to all-but-essential travel is certainly not without economic consequence. And while the move was seen as a way to stop the coronavirus from spreading into Canada from the U.S., if and when America gets its situation under control, experts want to find a way to get people moving back and forth again — especially given this virus will be with us for some time.

SFU professor Kelly Lee said border restrictions are only part of the equation and that being able to detect new cases that come in and getting visitors to comply with quarantine rules are key.

“You also have to think about all sorts of other measures, not just the opening or closing of borders, but it’s also about what you do before the border, at the border, and within the borders. So there’s the introduction of things like testing,” she added.

“You might have a combination of testing and a reduced quarantine time, so different countries are requiring different things and we’re watching them really closely to see what happens to their transmission rates and see if they do actually work,” she said.

Beyond the U.S.-Canada border, Lee suggested exploring so-called travel bubbles, easing travel restrictions with countries where the pandemic is under control.

The border closure deal with the U.S. is in place until Oct. 21.

The Public Health Agency of Canada said it continues to assess travel risks for Canadians, and will adjust and adapt its border measures based on science and evidence.

The border closure was first put in place in March, when cases of COVID-19 spiked across the continent. It’s been extended every month since, and is now set to expire on Oct. 21.

On Sept. 18, days before the agreement was set to expire, Minister of Public Safety Bill Blair said Canada would “continue to base our decisions on the best public health advice available to keep Canadians safe.”

The number of cases of COVID-19 continues to rise in the U.S. at a rate far greater than on this side of the border, despite Canada being in the midst of a second wave of the coronavirus.