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U.S. government won't say why it allows Canadians to fly to U.S. despite border closure – CBC.ca

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It’s a quirky rule that has confounded many people: while the Canada-U.S. land border is closed to non-essential traffic due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Canadians can still fly to the United States for leisure travel. 

“It’s like having your front door locked but your back door wide open,” said U.S. immigration lawyer Len Saunders, whose office sits close to the Canadian border in Blaine, Wash.

“It just doesn’t make sense.”

To add to the confusion, the flying rule isn’t reciprocal: Canada bars American travellers from entering by any mode of transport, unless they get a special exemption

Saunders said he has been bombarded with calls from Canadians during the border closure inquiring about flying to the U.S.

“People are still calling me saying, ‘I just want to clarify that this is OK. And why can I fly, but I can’t drive?'”

CBC News asked the U.S. government that same question, but didn’t get a response. 

U.S. immigration lawyer Len Saunders, who is based in Washington state, said he’s been swamped with calls from Canadians inquiring about flying to the U.S.

Foreign relations expert Edward Alden suggests the reason why Canadians can still fly to the U.S. may be rooted in the fact that, compared to Canada, the U.S. has less stringent travel restrictions for air passengers.

“The measures in the United States are just across the board far more relaxed,” said Alden, a professor of U.S.-Canada economic relations at Western Washington University in Bellingham, Wash.

“[It’s] certainly one of the reasons we have higher [COVID-19] case numbers.”

‘I could have walked’

To help stop the spread of COVID-19, Canada and the U.S. agreed in late March to close their shared land border to non-essential travel.

Since then, many Canadians have flown to the U.S, after discovering that it’s still allowed. 

But the flying exemption has also sparked bewilderment.

Birgit Heinbach lives in Surrey, B.C., just seven kilometres from her American husband’s home across the border in Blaine, Wash.

Because she can currently only fly to the U.S., Heinbach said it took seven hours and two flights — from Vancouver to Seattle and then Seattle to Bellingham — to get to her husband’s home when she visited him in July. 

“The whole thing was ridiculous,” she said. “I could have walked in my own little shoes — in 45 minutes — to my husband’s house.”

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

Canadian snowbird Tamara Carmichael lives in a non-winterized mobile home in Leduc, Alta., in the summer. Her winter home sits in an RV park in Yuma, Ariz.

Although Carmichael can still fly to the U.S. this winter, she said that’s not an option because she needs her truck to get around in Yuma, and can’t afford the fee — upwards of $1,500 — to ship it. 

She argues the U.S. flying exemption is nonsensical because driving is a much safer way to travel during the pandemic.

“Sticking everybody on an airplane is not a solution,” said Carmichael. “You’re packed into a tin can with a bunch of other people.”

Canadian snowbird Tamara Carmichael said she doesn’t understand why the U.S. still lets Canadians fly to the country when driving is a safer mode of travel during the pandemic. (Radio Canada/Olivier Periard)

According to a U.S. government document, it sanctioned the land border closure because “non-essential travel between the United States and Canada poses additional risk of [COVID-19] transmission.”

CBC News asked several U.S. government departments and agencies why the government still welcomes Canadian air passengers. The Department of Transportation and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) referred CBC to the Department of Homeland Security’s main office. That office and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention referred CBC to CBP.

No one provided an answer, despite repeated inquiries.

Experts offer theories

Alden theorizes that Canada — which has strict travel restrictions — prompted the land border closure, and that while the U.S. agreed, it had no desire to take it further. 

Canada has restricted most foreigners from entering the country by any mode of travel during the pandemic. But foreigners can still fly to the U.S. as long as they haven’t visited Brazil, China, Iran, Ireland, the U.K. or 26 European countries in the Schengen Area 14 days prior. 

Canada was never added to that no-fly list. Neither was Mexico, even though Mexico and the U.S. have also agreed to close their shared land border to non-essential travel. 

“Generally, the United States has a much looser regime in terms of trying to keep out travellers,” said Alden. “They don’t see casual travellers as much of a threat, because they’re worried about drugs and illegal migrants and terrorism.”

WATCH | U.S. President Donald Trump tells people not to fear the coronavirus:

U.S. President Donald Trump returned to the White House — still infected with the coronavirus — and removed his mask on the balcony before going inside. He then tweeted a video of himself telling Americans not to be afraid of coronavirus or let it take over their lives.  7:25

Alden also said that the U.S. may have reasoned it would be too cumbersome for the country’s airlines to weed out the non-essential travellers if the country expanded its land border bans to air passengers.

“If you were going to make distinctions between essential and non-essential travellers, the airlines were going to have to be involved in some way.”

Lawyer Saunders said he spoke this week with a senior U.S. CBP official who believes the U.S. still welcomes Canadian air passengers due to pressure from U.S. airlines to keep flights in operation.

“He said the airline industries would have lobbied hard when they were drafting this border closure,” said Saunders.

But the actual reason why Canadians can fly to the U.S. remains a mystery — until and unless its government offers an explanation.

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The latest news on COVID-19 developments in Canada – NEWS 1130 – News 1130

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The latest news on COVID-19 developments in Canada (all times Eastern):

11:15 a.m.

Quebec is reporting 905 new cases of COVID-19 and 12 more deaths attributed to the novel coronavirus.

Authorities said today four COVID-related deaths occurred in the past 24 hours.

Hospitalizations dropped by 13 compared with the prior day, for a total of 540.

The province has reported a total of 98,226 COVID-19 infections and 6,106 deaths linked to the virus.

___

11 a.m.

Ontario is reporting 826 new cases of COVID-19 today, and nine new deaths due to the virus.

Health Minister Christine Elliott says 292 cases are in Toronto, 186 in Peel Region, 87 in Ottawa, and 72 in York Region.

The province says it has conducted 40,019 tests since the last daily report, with another 35,436 being processed.

In total, 276 people are hospitalized in Ontario due to COVID-19, including 78 in intensive care.

___

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 23, 2020. 

The Canadian Press

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The latest news on COVID-19 developments in Canada – CityNews Toronto

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The latest news on COVID-19 developments in Canada (all times Eastern):

11:20 a.m.

Two more vaccine makers have asked Health Canada to study their product before it has completed clinical trials. 

Both Moderna and Pfizer applied to Health Canada on Oct. 12 to have their vaccine candidates studied by the regulator.

Health Canada is trying to review the vaccines at the same time they are undergoing final clinical tests so they can be approved for use here as quickly as possible. 

AstraZeneca applied for its vaccine candidate on Oct. 1.

All three vaccine candidates are among the ones Canada will get access to if they are deemed safe and effective.

____

11:15 a.m.

Quebec is reporting 905 new cases of COVID-19 and 12 more deaths attributed to the novel coronavirus.

Authorities said today four COVID-related deaths occurred in the past 24 hours.

Hospitalizations dropped by 13 compared with the prior day, for a total of 540.

The province has reported a total of 98,226 COVID-19 infections and 6,106 deaths linked to the virus.

___

11 a.m.

Ontario is reporting 826 new cases of COVID-19 today, and nine new deaths due to the virus.

Health Minister Christine Elliott says 292 cases are in Toronto, 186 in Peel Region, 87 in Ottawa, and 72 in York Region.

The province says it has conducted 40,019 tests since the last daily report, with another 35,436 being processed.

In total, 276 people are hospitalized in Ontario due to COVID-19, including 78 in intensive care.

___

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 23, 2020. 

The Canadian Press

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Coronavirus: What's happening in Canada and around the world on Saturday – CBC.ca

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The latest:

Cases of COVID-19 continue to surge in communities across Canada, with Ontario recording its biggest single-day increase on Saturday.

Ontario reported 978 more cases of COVID-19, with nearly 44,200 tests completed, two weeks after the Thanksgiving holiday weekend.

Saturday’s count of new cases surpassed the previous high of 939, reported on Oct. 9. 

Locally, there are 348 new cases in Toronto, 170 in Peel Region, 141 in York Region, 89 in Ottawa and 51 in Durham Region.

Ontario reported 826 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday and nine new deaths linked to the virus.

Quebec on Saturday reported 1,009 new cases and 26 more deaths, after recording 905 new COVID-19 cases and 12 deaths the previous day.

As of Friday, there were 540 people in hospital, including 99 in intensive care. In its latest projections, the province’s national health institute said hospitals will not reach full capacity in the next four weeks due to the rate of transmission having stabilized in recent days.

WATCH | COVID-19 cases threaten to overwhelm Canadian hospitals, doctor says

CBC medical contributor Dr. Peter Lin stresses the need to make sure hospitals are equipped to deal with the resurgence in coronavirus cases. 8:42

Premier François Legault has said it’s likely the province will have to maintain many public health restrictions currently in place in red zones past Oct. 28, including keeping restaurants and bars closed.

Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, issued a statement on Saturday reiterating her warning from the previous day that the number of people “experiencing severe illness” due to the pandemic continues to rise.

“As hospitalisations and deaths tend to lag behind increased disease activity by one to several weeks, the concern is that we have yet to see the extent of severe impacts associated with the ongoing increase in COVID-19 disease activity,” Tam said.

“As well, influenza and respiratory infections typically increase during the fall and winter, placing increased demands on hospitals. This is why it is so important for people of all ages to maintain public health practices that keep respiratory infection rates low.”

WATCH | Reduce gatherings even more, health experts urge:

British Columbia’s Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry expressed concerns around the spread of COVID-19 at social gatherings, something that infectious diseases specialist Dr. Sumon Chakrabarti says is being seen across the country. 1:54

“Over the past seven days, there was an average of just over 1,000 individuals with COVID-19 treated in Canadian hospitals, including over 200 in critical care,” Tam said.

Cases of COVID-19 continue to surge in communities across Canada, with Ontario and Quebec remaining the hardest-hit provinces; however, other provinces are seeing record increases.

Alberta reached the grim figure of 300 COVID-19 deaths on Friday while setting records yet again for new cases and active cases. 

The province reported 432 new cases and 3,651 active cases, the third straight day records were set.

Fifty inmates and five staff members at the Calgary Correctional Centre have tested positive for the infection, according to a statement from Alberta Health Services.

All inmates and staff are being tested, and isolation and monitoring of the positive cases are underway. Contact tracing for anyone potentially exposed to these individuals is ongoing.


What’s happening elsewhere in Canada

As of 12:50 p.m. ET on Saturday, Canada had 212,750 confirmed or presumptive coronavirus cases. Provinces and territories listed 179,537 of those as recovered or resolved. A CBC News tally of deaths based on provincial reports, regional health information and CBC’s reporting rose to 9,920.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau updated Canadians on vaccine development Friday — a day after Canada tallied a record high of new cases in a single day at 2,788 — saying the federal government is spending $214 million toward the development of COVID-19 vaccines, signing deals with two Canadian biotech firms.

Trudeau warned it’s unlikely that any of these candidates will be ready to distribute to Canadians this year or early next year. It’s reasonable to expect that vaccines will start to roll out at some point in 2021, he said, but even then, supply will be limited, and high-risk populations will be prioritized for inoculation.

Trudeau said his government signed a $173 million contract with Quebec’s Medicago to secure the rights to buy 76 million doses of its vaccine, should it meet health and safety standards. The funding will also be used to establish a production facility in Quebec City, he said.

Ottawa is also investing $18.2 million in a potential vaccine from British Columbia’s Precision NanoSystems. Meanwhile, the National Research Council is spending $23 million to support other Canadian vaccine initiatives, Trudeau said.

WATCH | Study casts doubt on use of convalescent plasma for COVID-19 treatment:

An Indian study is casting doubt on the effectiveness of giving patients sick with COVID-19 the blood plasma of others who have battled it, to transfer antibodies. But Canadian researchers say it could still work, if the antibody levels are tested. 3:27

The prime minister said Canada has signed six agreements with a number of companies taking part in the global race to produce a safe and effective vaccine for COVID-19 .

Two more American vaccine makers, Moderna and Pfizer, have asked Health Canada to review their products, which are undergoing clinical trials.

In British Columbia, health officials announced 223 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday. Seventy-five people are in hospital, with 24 in intensive care.

Yukon‘s chief medical officer of health,  Dr. Brendan Hanley, has reported three new cases in Watson Lake, which he says are part of a “family cluster.” They hadn’t travelled outside Yukon, so it’s not known yet where they contracted the virus.

WATCH | Manitoba’s top doctor on the increasing community spread of COVID-19:

Dr. Brent Roussin, Manitoba’s chief public health officer, explains why increasing community spread of COVID-19 makes targeted approaches to control the illness less effective. 0:48

Manitoba reported a total of 163 new infections on Friday, most concentrated in Winnipeg. The province also said a man in his 80s is the latest death linked to an outbreak at Winnipeg’s personal care home Parkview Place, where 15 residents have died of the illness.

The province has announced new rules for northern Manitoba and schools in both the Winnipeg area and the north. Those measures will take effect on Monday.

Nova Scotia reported no new cases of COVID-19 on Friday, a day after the province warned residents against unnecessary travel to the Campbellton-Restigouche area of New Brunswick due to a COVID-19 outbreak.

The recommendation came after New Brunswick announced new restrictions for the Campbellton region, almost two weeks after it was pushed back to the orange phase of recovery. While Zone 5 will remain in the orange stage, people will be limited to interacting with a single household bubble, N.B. Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Jennifer Russell said.

New Brunswick announced two new COVID-19 cases on Saturday, in addition to two new cases on Friday. That brings the total number of cases the province has recorded to 326, with four deaths.

Newfoundland and Labrador reported one new confirmed case of COVID-19 on Saturday, a man from the Eastern Health region in his 50s who had returned home to the province after working in Alberta.

Out of an abundance of caution, the province’s Health Department is asking passengers who travelled on Air Canada Flight 690 from Toronto to St. John’s last Tuesday to arrange for COVID-19 testing.


What’s happening around the world

According to Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, the global total of confirmed coronavirus cases stands at more than 42.2 million. More than 1.1 million people have died, while more than 28.5 million have recovered.

In Europe, Polish President Andrzej Duda has tested positive for coronavirus, his spokesperson says. Duda’s diagnosis comes amid a huge surge in the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 and deaths in Poland, pushing the country’s strained health system to the breaking point. The government is preparing to open field hospitals, but it is not sure where it will find the doctors and nurses to staff them.

In the Americas, the U.S. hit a daily record of coronavirus cases on Friday with more than 84,000 reported infections, thousands more than the previous peak in July. The numbers are an ominous sign the disease still has a firm grip on the nation that has more confirmed virus-related deaths and infections than any other in the world. Many states are reporting a surge of cases and say hospitals are running out of space in areas where the pandemic seemed remote only months ago.

People have their temperatures checked as they enter an early voting polling station in New York City on Saturday. (Getty Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

In Asia, authorities in Sri Lanka closed at least two fishery harbours and many stalls after a surge of 609 cases linked to the country’s main fish market. Authorities say the outbreak is related to a cluster in a garment factory early this month, which has grown to 3,426 cases, almost half the country’s total of 6,287. Several thousand people have been asked to quarantine at home.

In Africa, the Ethiopian attorney general’s office said authorities can jail people for up to two years if they deliberately violate restrictions amid concerns that citizens are becoming lax after a state of emergency was lifted. The country has seen more than 91,000 cases and more than 1,300 deaths.

Have a coronavirus question or news tip for CBC News? Email us at COVID@cbc.ca

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