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Canada-U.S. border rules and restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic explained –



Confused over Canada-U.S. border restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic? 

Perhaps you’re wondering why you see U.S. licence plates in a local parking lot when the Canada-U.S. land border is closed to tourists. 

Or you’re stumped why your neighbour was able to fly to New York last week, but you can’t make the five-minute drive across the Windsor-Detroit border to visit family. 

Here’s what you need to know about current Canada-U.S. border restrictions and how they may impact you.

Canada-U.S. land border rules

To help stop the spread of the novel coronavirus, Canada and the U.S. agreed to close their shared land border to non-essential traffic starting on March 21. The agreement is reviewed every 30 days. So far, the border closure has been extended three times. 

The current end date is July 21, and that date could be extended once again, particularly if the number of COVID-19 cases in some U.S. states continues to spike. 

“I honestly don’t think the border will open until the end of the year,” said U.S. immigration lawyer Len Saunders. “Especially when you hear about more [COVID-19] cases in Arizona and Texas and all these southern states.”

The Canada-U.S. land border remains open to people making trips for essential reasons, such as for work or school.

On June 9, the Canadian government loosened its border restrictions to allow American visitors with immediate family in Canada to enter the country. Note that a boyfriend or girlfriend doesn’t qualify as family and a common-law partner only qualifies if that person has lived with their significant other for at least a year. 

Visiting family members must stay in Canada for at least 15 days and self-quarantine for 14 days upon arrival.

Ian Geddes with his wife, Birgit Heinbach, at the Peace Arch border between Surrey, B.C., and Blaine, Wash. The couple lives eight kilometres apart on opposite sides of the Canada-U.S. border. (Len Saunders)

The land border closure continues to frustrate many cross-border couples who can’t meet Canada’s requirements for reuniting with family. 

Last year, Ian Geddes of Blaine, Wash., married Birgit Heinbach  of Surrey, B.C. Until Heinbach gets her U.S. immigrant visa, the two are separated by the border. 

Geddes said he can’t get enough time off work right now to complete a 14-day quarantine in Canada — before he can hang out with his wife and her son.

“It’s just a really tough situation,” said Geddes, who wishes the Canadian government would waive the self-quarantine requirement for immediate family.

“You should be allowed to cross into a country and see your wife,” he said. “Give us some kind of a concession.”

You can fly to the U.S. 

Some Canadians may be surprised to learn they can still fly to the U.S. during the pandemic, even though the same rule doesn’t apply on the other side of the border. 

With the exception of immediate family, Canada currently restricts all foreigners — including Americans — from visiting the country for non-essential travel via any mode of transportation. 

The U.S., however, only prohibits visitors from entering its country if they’ve been in Brazil, China, Iran, Ireland, the U.K. or 26 European countries in the Schengen Area 14 days prior. 

During the closure of the Canada-U.S. land border to non-essential travel, Canadians can still fly to the U.S. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press)

Because of the bilateral agreement to close the Canada-U.S. land border, the only way Canadians can currently travel to the U.S. is by air. Saunders said dozens of his Canadian clients have flown to the U.S. with no complications during the land border closure. 

“There’s a back door wide open,” said Saunders, whose office sits close to the Canadian border in Blaine, Wash. “They can just go in through the airport, and so that’s what people are doing in droves.”

Canadian air passengers also likely won’t have to self-isolate for 14 days upon arrival in the U.S. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that international travellers do so, but it’s not a requirement unless specified by a particular region or state.

When Canadians return home, they must self-isolate for 14 days — as per federal rules

WATCH | What adjusted border rules mean for families eager to reunite:  

Canada is now allowing some family members separated by temporary COVID-19 travel restrictions to cross the border from the U.S. 3:22

Heinbach plans to fly to the U.S. in August to visit Geddes in Blaine. It’s a frustrating solution for the couple because, even though they live in different countries, their homes are only eight kilometres apart — typically a 10-minute drive, depending on border traffic.  

But now Heinbach must fly from Vancouver to Seattle to visit Geddes in Blaine — a journey of more than three hours by plane and car. 

“It just doesn’t make sense,” said Geddes. 

U.S. licence plates in Canada 

Some Banff, Alta., residents have complained that they’ve recently spotted American tourists and U.S. licence plates in the resort town. 

“Two days ago, I saw four people get out of a car, out of a Texas vehicle,” Banff resident Nina Stewart told CBC News on June 12. “They were laughing and joking about how easy it was to get into Banff.”

Canada allows Americans to drive through the country to Alaska for essential reasons, such as for work or returning to their home. However, they’re not to make unnecessary stops along the way. 

RCMP said officers fined seven Americans this week who were supposed to be driving straight to Alaska, but instead were caught taking in the sights at Banff National Park. The fines, issued under the Alberta Health Act, were for $1,200 each. 

“As much as you’d want to stop and see the sights … that’s just inappropriate,” said Fraser Logan, spokesperson for the RCMP in Alberta. 

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Nearly 40 feared dead as torrential rains hit southwest Japan



TOKYO (Reuters) – Nearly 40 people were feared dead as torrential rains continued to hit Japan’s southwestern island of Kyushu, with river banks at risk of bursting on Monday morning and new evacuation orders put in place.

Flooding and mudslides that began at the weekend torrential rains killed 21 people so far. A further 18 people were showing no vital signs and presumed dead pending official confirmation, and 13 people were missing, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said at a news conference.

“I offer my deepest condolences for those who have passed from the torrential rains,” Suga said, adding that some 40,000 members of the Self-Defence Force were involved in rescue missions.

He added that evacuation centres were also working on preventing the spread of the novel coronavirus by distributing disinfectant and asking evacuees to maintain their distance from each other.

As of Saturday, some 200,000 have been ordered to evacuate their homes, according to Kyodo news agency.

The floods are Japan’s worst natural disaster since Typhoon Hagibis in October last year that left about 90 people dead.

(Reporting by Sakura Murakami; Editing by Michael Perry)

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Australia closes state border for first time in 100 years to halt coronavirus



By Colin Packham and Renju Jose

SYDNEY (Reuters) – The border between Australia’s two most populous states will close from Tuesday for an indefinite period, Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews said on Monday, following an outbreak of the coronavirus in his state.

The decision marks the first time the border with neighbouring New South Wales has been shut in 100 years – officials last blocked movement between the two states in 1919 during the Spanish flu pandemic.

The number of COVID-19 cases in Melbourne, Victoria’s capital, has surged in recent days, prompting authorities to enforce strict social-distancing orders in 30 suburbs and put nine public housing towers into complete lockdown.

The state reported 127 new COVID-19 infections overnight, its biggest one-day spike since the pandemic began. It also reported one death, the first nationally in more than two weeks, taking the country’s total tally to 105.

“It is the smart call, the right call at this time, given the significant challenges we face in containing this virus,” Andrews told reporters in Melbourne as he announced the border closure.

The closure will, however, likely be a blow to Australia’s economic recovery as it heads into its first recession in nearly three decades.

Andrews said the decision to close the border, effective from 11.59 p.m. local time on Tuesday, was made jointly with Prime Minister Scott Morrison and NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian. Victoria’s only other internal border, with South Australia state, is already closed.

Australia has fared better than many countries in the coronavirus pandemic, with just short of 8,500 cases so far, but the Melbourne outbreak has raised alarm bells. The country has reported an average of 109 cases daily over the past week, compared with an average of just 9 cases daily over the first week of June.

(Reporting by Colin Packham and Renju Jose; editing by Jane Wardell)

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Canada weeks away from first glimpse at true rate of COVID-19 infections – CTV News



The national immunity task force has started testing thousands of blood samples for COVID-19 antibodies and should be able to produce a more detailed picture of how many Canadians have been infected with the novel coronavirus within a couple of weeks.

It will be much longer, however, before we know more about what kind of protection against future infection having the antibodies provides, said Dr. Timothy Evans, executive director of the COVID-19 Immunity Task Force.

Plus, said Evans, most of the people whose blood is being tested will not be informed of the results because of how the blood is being collected for testing.

“There won’t be an opportunity for individuals to find out their status,” said Evans, who is also director of the McGill School of Population and Global Health.

At least 105,000 Canadians have tested positive for COVID-19 since the coronavirus was identified in January, while many others were sick but couldn’t get tested because provinces were limiting who could access the procedure until just a few weeks ago.

Evans also said a significant number of people get the infection and show no symptoms and will have no clue they were ever sick. Evans said immunity testing in other countries has suggested the actual infection rate is 10 to 20 times more than the number of confirmed cases.

There are multiple prongs to the task force’s plan to figure out the true infection rate here, starting with running antibody tests on 40,000 samples collected from people who donated blood to Canadian Blood Services and Hema Quebec since May. Evans said about 1,600 of those samples are being run through the test kits every day now, and analyses are already under way on the results.

“Hopefully within the next two weeks we will have an initial first number,” he said.

The first results will reveal how many samples showed antibodies, but include no specifics like whether they are male or female or where they live.

“By the end of the month of July, we expect to have a more broken down picture of what we call the seroprevalence, the presence of antibodies in the blood, that will look at it by age group and geographic location,” Evans said.

Evans said Canadian Blood Services can’t trace back the samples to the actual patients who gave them, so positive antibody tests will not be reported back for anyone who donated blood outside of Quebec. He said Hema Quebec said it might be possible to identify the patients but hasn’t yet decided if it will do so.

Another testing program is now beginning on 25,000 blood samples taken from pregnant women, using blood routinely drawn during the first trimester to screen for sexually transmitted infections and check for immunity to other illnesses like rubella. COVID-19 antibody testing will be added to that list for all pregnant women in Canada, going back all the way to December. The women will be informed if they test positive for COVID-19 antibodies, said Evans.

Evans said there are also about 30,000 blood samples held in provincial labs that are being tested for antibodies.

He said together these projects can provide a piecemeal picture of the infection rate across the country, though it won’t be a truly representative sample until a national household survey can be run. That isn’t going to happen until the portable antibody tests become reliable, but a plan is being developed with Statistics Canada so it’s ready when the tests are.

“We’d love to have a test that didn’t require a formal blood draw, but rather a pin prick but we’re not quite there yet,” he said. “There’s some things on the horizon. We’re trying to get those validated quickly but we still haven’t got what I would call a good portable test that could be used in the home.”

The tests the task force is using now require only a small amount of blood — less than 1/20th of a teaspoon, generally — but it is still more than what comes from a finger prick.

Evans said understanding how many people got infected can help drive policy decisions about where to vaccinate first, the impact specific public health measures might have had in some settings like long-term care centres, hospitals and schools, or communities that have been hit particularly hard.

The task force also has a two-year mandate to try to look at what kind of protection someone has from having antibodies, as well as how long the levels of antibodies last in a person’s blood. Evans said those studies are just getting underway and will take time, including looking to see whether people who have the antibodies get infected during a second or third wave of the pandemic.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 5, 2020.

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