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Health vs. wealth: The two sides of Canada-U.S. border closure

Friday, June 18, 2021 @ 2:06 PM | By Rosanna Berardi


Rosanna Berardi %>
Rosanna Berardi
With whispers from the Prime Minister’s Office that a border reopening plan could be coming soon, the decision to keep the U.S.-Canada border closed is one that has received criticism and praise from both sides of the border. In attempting to balance the health of its citizens against a rapidly approaching summer tourism season and businesses struggling after being in various forms of lockdown for over one year, the Canadian and U.S. governments each have interests in both opening and keeping the border closed.   

For Canadians returning to Canada — especially those trying to return from their snowbird season in the southern U.S. — news of a possible opening could not come soon enough. Currently, the financial costs imposed by the border closure vary according to the mode of return transport to Canada. For those flying into Canada, travelers will be routed through four main airports and are required to stay in government designated “stopover” hotels for the first three days of a 14-day quarantine, costing the traveler up to $1,600 or more. On the other hand, those who drive into Canada through a land border are not subjected to mandatory hotel stay but are still subjected to the 14-day home quarantine. Presently, there are no exceptions being made to the quarantine mandate regardless of vaccination status when entering Canada. All travelers entering Canada by land, air and sea are still required to present a negative molecular COVID test for entry or face stiff fines.

The vaccination rate in Canada, coupled with a late spring spike in cases, have been major factors in the Canadian government’s decision to postpone opening the border. In June of 2020, Canada had just under 400 new cases daily; today it has over 1,300 new cases daily. Vaccination has been slow in Canada, with only seven per cent of their population having received the full regimen of COVID-19 vaccines, despite 68 per cent of the adult population having received the first dose.

Regardless of vaccination efforts, the number of active cases in Canada jumped to its highest mark twice in 2021, with January coming in with 82,500 active cases of infection and April 2021 having nearly 88,000 active cases. With the late spike occurring during the push for vaccination, and with pressure to reopen from the U.S. with five million currently infected and active cases of COVID-19, it is understandable why, from the health perspective, Canada has not been quick to throw open the doors.

However, with the pandemic pressing into its second summer, the Canadian tourism industry and the U.S. tourism industry are banging on the gates loudly to open. There are over 600,000 jobs in the Canadian tourism industry, which contributes $84 billion dollars to the country’s economy each year. Canadian officials had discussed the possibility of vaccine passports to allow for tourism to return and to minimize the risk of spread, but pushback over such passports in the U.S. could affect their usefulness. The American tourists and those who own property in Canada have been pushing for the border to open, feeling it is unfair that Canadians are able to cross the border to be vaccinated under specific circumstances, but the same courtesy is not extended to Americans.

Trying to balance the health of the nation with the wealth of the nation during a global pandemic has put decision-makers in tight positions. The health and wealth of a nation are inexplicably tied, and in this instance, until the number of cases falls or the number of vaccinated adults in Canada rises, it could be sometime before the border is open for business as usual.

Rosanna Berardi is the managing partner of Berardi Immigration Law and the CEO of High Wire Woman, where she helps working women create a blueprint to live their lives in a simpler way and take back their most precious commodity: their time.

Photo credit / marchmeena29 ISTOCKPHOTO.COM

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