Canada extends border restrictions for a month

A Nexus toll lane on the Canadian side of the Whirlpool Bridge. The closure of the border between the United States and Canada to non-essential travel is now extended until at least Feb. 21, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced on Tuesday. (File photo)

 

ALBANY — The closure of the border between the United States and Canada to non-essential travel is now extended until at least Feb. 21, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Tuesday.

The restrictions have had an impact on tourism-related businesses in Niagara County and New York's North Country.

"We'll continue to do whatever is necessary to keep Canadians safe," Trudeau said on Twitter.

The closure, which has been extended several times, was set to expire Jan. 21.

But coronavirus infections have continued to spread on both sides of the border. In recent weeks, a variant of the virus, known as the U.K. strain, has turned up in dozens of people in the United States, including several who underwent testing in New York.

U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-Willsboro, said the extension of restrictions was expected. But she noted the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has put forward "new conditions that could be used to ease restrictions for residents and business owners ... such as considering the degree of health risk indicated in the Centers for Disease Control’s Travel Health Notice for Canada and Mexico."

Public health conditions in border communities and the staffing levels of local Border Patrol Officers would be factors that are evaluated in any restriction plan going forward, Stefanik said.

"We are now closer to a viable, long-term solution on this important issue, and I am committed to working with the incoming administration to implement a comprehensive plan to safely reopen the border,” Stefanik, co-chair of the Congressional Northern Border Caucus, said in a statement.

U.S. Rep. Brian Higgins, D-Buffalo, expressed optimism the restrictions will be addressed by the incoming administration of President-elect Joe Biden.

“Despite our numerous requests to U.S. border agencies, no plan has been developed for the eventual reopening of the border between the United States and Canada," Higgins said.

He added that while he does not expected immediate changes at the border, "I do believe the new administration will work with focus to repair relationships with our allies and put the United States on a healing path.”

Pandemic-driven restrictions at the border have been in effect since March 24, 2020.

The border spans 5,525 miles, including 445 miles that New York shares with Ontario and Quebec.

Joe Mahoney covers the New York Statehouse for CNHI’s newspapers and websites. Reach him at jmahoney@cnhi.com .

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