WASHINGTON – The Biden administration says COVID-19 vaccination requirements for foreign air travellers and at the Canada-U.S. border are being lifted as of May 12.
The day before, May 11, will mark the end of the COVID-19 emergency the U.S. imposed back in 2020 as the world was coming to grips with the scale of the pandemic.
New York Rep. Brian Higgins, a vocal advocate of eased border restrictions, is cheering the news as a victory for families, tourists and long-suffering border communities.
Canada ended its own vaccination requirements for foreign visitors back in October.
The U.S., however, has continued to require federal workers, contractors and most international air travellers to show proof of vaccination.
The White House says deaths from COVID-19 around the world are at their lowest levels since the start of the pandemic, and 95 per cent lower in the U.S. than they were in January 2021.
“We are in a different phase of our response to COVID-19 than we were when many of these requirements were put into place,” the administration said in a statement.
The restrictions will end “at the end of the day on May 11, the same day that the COVID-19 public health emergency ends.”
Also expected to end at the same time is Title 42, the controversial measure that gives the U.S. the power to summarily deny entry to asylum seekers on the basis of a public health emergency.
The White House statement left the restrictions on land borders, known as Title 19, to the Department of Homeland Security, which promptly followed up with a statement of its own.
“Beginning May 12, 2023, DHS will no longer require non-U.S. travellers entering the United States via land ports of entry and ferry terminals to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and provide related proof of vaccination upon request,” it read.
“DHS intends to rescind these Title 19 travel restrictions in alignment with the end of the public health emergency and the termination of the presidential proclamation on air travel.”
President Joe Biden had already made clear when the emergency measures would expire, but Higgins said it was never certain that the changes would extend to the Canada-U.S. land border.
But now that it’s clear they will, it’s time to celebrate, he said.
“For over three years now there have been barriers to cross-border travel. It has kept families apart and impeded economic recovery,” he said in a release.
“While long overdue, this last lifting of pandemic restrictions is certainly welcome news and critically important as we seek opportunities to encourage a robust cross-border exchange that delivers shared prosperity.”