The United States will reopen its land borders and ferry ports of entry with Canada and Mexico to fully vaccinated travellers next month, after being closed for nearly two years in the effort to help curb the spread of COVID-19.
Meanwhile, vaccinated travellers from other countries will be allowed entry into the U.S. in early January 2022.
But Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland on Wednesday urged caution for Canadians planning on driving or taking the train to the U.S. for non-essential reasons, reiterating previous advice given by Dr. Eileen De Villa, medical officer of health for the City of Toronto.
“Do the things you need to do, and maybe hold back on doing the things that you just want to do,” Freeland said. “If we can keep on doing that for a few more weeks, Canada can really fully put COVID behind us.”
Here’s what we know and don’t know about the announcement so far.
When exactly will Canada-U.S. land borders reopen?
White House officials have yet to provide a set date on when they will reopen their land borders. The current deadline for the U.S. to reopen its borders with Canada and Mexico is Oct. 21, but officials have said the closure will be extended to the early November reopening date.
Will you still need a negative COVID-19 test result?
No. Unlike the rules when it comes to flying from Canada to the U.S., those travelling via land will not have to present a recent negative COVID-19 test as long as they can prove they have received two doses of an authorized vaccine that has been authorized for use by either the World Health Organization or U.S. regulators.
Canada reopened its land borders to fully vaccinated U.S. citizens and permanent residents on Aug. 9, but travellers will be required to show proof of a negative COVID-19 test. Canada began allowing fully vaccinated travellers from other parts of the world into the country on Sept. 7.
Under the new rules, White House officials said non-essential travellers will be asked about their vaccination status at crossings, and only those who are fully vaccinated will be allowed through.
Anyone looking to cross U.S. borders can also be randomly selected for screening at any time, where they will be required to show proof of vaccination.
Which vaccines will be accepted?
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has previously said it will accept international travellers who have been immunized with vaccines authorized by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration or the World Health Organization.
This includes vaccines developed by AstraZeneca, COVIshield, Sinovac and Sinopharm, which have been approved by the WHO, as well as the Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson shots authorized for emergency use by the FDA.
Will mixed doses be accepted?
White House officials said Tuesday that the U.S. was still determining whether to allow travellers who received two different vaccine doses into the country, such as two doses of different mRNA vaccines like Moderna and Pfizer, or one dose of an mRNA vaccine and one dose of AstraZeneca.
Reluctance to accept mixed vaccination statuses could pose problems for the just over 10 per cent of Canadians — 3,911,303 — the federal government said are fully vaccinated with a combination of doses.
Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, said officials are working “hard at it” to get other countries to recognize the vaccinated status of Canadians with a mixed-dose regimen.
“(U.S. officials) are still working everything through at their end, so we are waiting anxiously to see what — what they will be doing at their end,” Tam said.
“But let’s just say we have left no stones unturned to advocate for the vaccine schedules here.”
Officials are also still figuring out what official proper documentation for vaccination statuses will look like.
What about partially vaccinated travellers?
Partially vaccinated travellers who are non-essential will not be allowed to cross American land borders, U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said in a statement on Tuesday.
It is unclear if exceptions will be made for travellers who have received one dose and recovered from COVID-19.
— with files from Global News’ Sean Boynton, Aaron D’Andrea, Rachel Gilmore and Reuters