By David Shepardson
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Four U.S. senators on Friday asked President Joe Biden to lift restrictions that have barred travel by Canadians across the northern U.S. border since March 2020.
Democratic Senators Jeanne Shaheen and Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire, Jon Tester of Montana and independent Angus King of Maine asked Biden to allow Canadians vaccinated against COVID-19 to travel to the United States before October. The border state senators said in a letter the restrictions have led to “economic and emotional strain in our communities.”
The senators added: “A plan with some indication of when your administration would feel comfortable lifting border restrictions based on public health data would provide clarity to businesses and families along the northern border.”
They also noted that Canadians can fly to the United States. “We struggle to understand the public health rationale for the disparate treatment in modes of travel,” the senators wrote.
The White House did not immediately comment on Friday, but White House coronavirus response coordinator Jeff Zients said on Wednesday that given the Delta variant of the coronavirus, “we will maintain the existing travel restrictions at this point.”
U.S. officials and travel industry executives say the White House is set to renew the restrictions before the latest extension expires on Sept. 21.
In August, the United States again extended restrictions closing its land borders with Canada and Mexico to nonessential travel such as tourism despite Ottawa’s decision to open its border to vaccinated Americans.
Canada on Aug. 9 began allowing fully vaccinated U.S. visitors for nonessential travel.
The United States has continued to extend the extraordinary restrictions on Canada and Mexico on a monthly basis since March 2020, when they were imposed to address the spread of COVID-19.
The U.S. land border restrictions do not bar U.S. citizens from returning home.
The United States separately bars most non-U.S. citizens who within the last 14 days have been in the United Kingdom, the 26 Schengen countries in Europe without border controls, Ireland, China, India, South Africa, Iran and Brazil.
(Reporting by David Shepardson in Washington; Editing by Matthew Lewis)