US & Canada Border Closure Extended (Again)

Filed Under: Travel

The border closure between the US and Canada has just been extended again, through at least March 21, 2021.

Canada border closed to Americans through March 21

The border between the US and Canada has been closed for non-essential travel since March 21, 2020. The border closure has consistently been extended for a month at a time. Until a couple of days ago the border closure was in place through February 21, 2021, while the closure has now been extended through March 21, 2021.

That marks a full year of the border between the two countries being closed, and it also marks the first border closure extension that has been announced since President Biden took office.

The travel restrictions are intended to slow the spread of coronavirus. This prevents most non-essential travel, but select essential travelers, as well as goods, are still allowed to cross the border.

There are a couple of further things to note:

Canadians continue to be able to travel to the US by air

Coronavirus in the US vs. Canada

How do case numbers actually compare in the US & Canada? The situation in both countries is improving considerably in recent weeks.

Comparing the situation since the start of the pandemic:

  • The US has seen a total of 28.2 million cases and 500K deaths, with a population of 328 million
  • Canada has seen a total of 851K cases and over 21,700 deaths, with a population of 38 million

Since the start of the pandemic, the US has seen 3.8x as many cases per capita, and 2.7x as many deaths per capita.

Fortunately the situation in both countries is improving. Comparing the seven day average in the two countries:

  • The US is seeing ~67,000 cases per day and 1,994 deaths per day
  • Canada is seeing ~2,900 cases per day and 59 deaths per day

As you can see, Canada is still doing much better, but cases and deaths are dropping at a drastic rate in both countries, which is fantastic. In particular, in the US we’ve seen a huge drop in cases, and it looks like we’re slowly seeing a corresponding drop in deaths, with the expected lag.

The US has seen a lot more cases & deaths than Canada

For Canada this is about restricting movement

Even with the situation in both Canada and the US improving, it seems highly likely that borders won’t reopen in the next few months.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has added significant border restrictions in recent weeks, including banning most flights from the Caribbean and Mexico, and also requiring a hotel quarantine for most travelers arriving from abroad, in addition to at least three coronavirus tests.

It seems clear that the goal is to restrict travel as much as possible, even for people arriving from countries with lower infection rates than Canada. For example, even someone coming to Canada from New Zealand would have to undergo a hotel quarantine, get tested three times, and more.

It seems unlikely the border will reopen anytime soon

Bottom line

The border between the US & Canada continues to be closed through at least March 21, 2021, though it’s highly likely the closure will be extended beyond that.

Canadians continue to be able to vacation in the US (if they want), while the opposite isn’t true. However, Canadians do have to undergo a significant testing and quarantine regime to return home from abroad.

With the Canadian government trying to restrict international travel as much as possible, it seems likely that current restrictions will remain in place.

When do you think we’ll see the US & Canadian border reopen?

  1. All this hype about the vaccine and now that we are starting to vaccinate, every country is dithering on allowing the vaccinated to travel (with masks and negative covid tests).
    You either believe in it or you don’t…

  2. Seems as if being vaccinated still means nothing to most countries in terms of restrictions/quarantine rules and all.

  3. I am surprised that they don’t do the “Closed until further noticed” rather than the monthly extension.

  4. Every Canadian I have interacted with in Hawaii has described their travel rules as “fascist.” The quarantine rules and lockdown mentality are really starting to anger people.

  5. Vaccines are only partially about individual protection the protection comes with mass adoption across a population (as we are beginning to see in Israel). Individual vaccination is important but border restrictions won’t come down until you have two countries with similar levels of herd immunity. I don’t know what the exact number is but but I would expect countries to want to be at least 70% vaccinated on both side before a mass exchange of populations and a lowering of travel restrictions.

    As ever in this pandemic it’s not about individuals it’s about collective action.

  6. @Ed….I agree. Canada’s one failing in in securing a vaccine and getting their vaccines rolled out. Think they were initially relying on. Chinese produced vaccine and then that got the carpet pulled out from under them. They are very low in the percentage of people vaccinated.

  7. @DeePeeGrumps – Canadians traveling to Hawaii are not really a random sampling, given that most Canadians are not traveling right now. If you look at opinion polling, the border restrictions are super popular and I fear that they will thus remain in place far longer than they are justified. (As a US citizen living in Canada, I would benefit a lot from the border reopening)

    @EC2 – Canada was never relying on Chinese vaccine – it was relying on US and EU vaccines, and, as it turns out, neither Europe nor the US has been super eager to export them. Unfortunately, Canada has no domestic vaccine production capacity, so there wasn’t really any other option (they’ve started building some facilities, but they won’t be up and running until it’s too later to matter).

  8. The border rules will be sharply reduced/eliminated starting in June. That is when American tourists typically start coming over the border to Canadian lodges and hotels. The lodges and hotels missed the entire season last year. Missing this year will put near 100% of them out of business. I’d bet dollars to doughnuts that some substantial accommodation will be made (e.g. vaccinated people can cross border without quarantine). It may not seem like a big deal, but it’s a huge deal to their economy. It contributed more than $100 billion in revenue in 2019.

  9. @david: “Canada was never relying on Chinese vaccine – it was relying on US and EU vaccines, and, as it turns out, neither Europe nor the US has been super eager to export them. Unfortunately, Canada has no domestic vaccine production capacity, so there wasn’t really any other option (they’ve started building some facilities, but they won’t be up and running until it’s too later to matter).”

    The reliance was predominantly on Europe, not the US – the government looked to the EU rather than the US, due to the prior administration signaling that they would be unwilling to export vaccines from the US to Canada.

  10. Unfortunatelly as noted, the opinion of the majority is to stop all travel, and the politicians are just doing what the polls tell them.

    The rules have nothing to do with virus spread in Canada, since 80% of people are exempt from them anyway.

  11. Interesting how the three borders remain closed but with such differing restrictions. Anyone can FLY to the US but not cross by land although US citizens and residents can cross by land and require no tests. Canada bans everyone but their own citizens except truck drivers freely cross. Mexico allows everyone via land or air. How does any of this really stop the spread?

  12. All vaccinated people should be allowed to travel – the data is clear: vaccines work very well and protects from symptoms, hospitalisations and stop transmission. If borders stay closed for another year or so – we might have no airline in 2022 and only few hotels survive.

  13. The border and travel restrictions are onerous and quite frankly way more than needed… Regarding anecdotal views of Canadians in Hawaii, saying they think the rules are “racists” most Canadians (who never leave Flin Flon) are quite happy to keep the border closed. Canadians see the US as the COVID enemy and dont want Canadians driving to the US to bring COVID back…. However, you totally neglect the fact that Trudeau has utterly failed on vaccine procurement and administration, less than 2 percent vaccinated with zero supply right now.

  14. At some point allowances need to be made fir the vaccinated, as it is rolling out pretty quickly in the US. I will be eligible by 1 March in my state and everyone will be eligible by May 3. That suggests a large percent of the population will be vaccinated by he summer. Canada depends on US tourism in the summer, so hopefully we can travel again by then.

  15. @Alan – Canada has so many exemptions to the quarantine rules its disturbing. Anyone flying in for work is allowed to skip quarantine. 80% of arrivals are, and only some are truckers.

    @Janet – vaccines wont change anything in Canada. We will remain closed to foreigners until at least end of 2021 if not longer. The govt is moving backwards on restrictions not forwards on top of a fumbled vaccine campaign (we are like 60th in per capita vaccinations)

    Most Canadians support strict border measures out of jealousy of those who travel or the fear instilled into them daily by the fearmongering media

  16. To answer Ben’s closing question “when will the border reopen?”, my 1st 2 thoughts:
    1. Never.
    2. In a few years, but with the same or stricter quarantine/vaccination/social-distancing/masking/whatever-else “science” comes up with to delay people from dying, in place.

    It is what it is. Oh well!

  17. Anyone who has followed J Trudeau’s politics in the past year knows that he won’t reopen the border quickly. Summer will come and go, even if 100% of Americans are vaccinated, no American tourists will be here this summer.

    There’s a huge effort being done by the media to portray travellers as the axis of evil – comments on CBC like “those who go out to the sun for an all-inclusive are now getting a Canadian all inclusive on their return”. When they don’t talk about travel they talk about new variants and possibly 40k daily cases here (the same was said in November).

    This is a daily rhetoric and probably one being fed to the media by the government to serve as a distraction that despite buying 10 doses for each Canadian resident the vaccination is terribly slow (most provinces are only moving on to the 85+ population next week). Trudeau keeps repeating all Canadians who want a vaccine will get it by September (perhaps 2022?) but 2021 seems unlikely.

  18. @DeePeeGrumps I live in Korea, I’m cool with strict travel restrictions and I don’t think it’s facist. Why? Because if Korea acted the same like the US of 2020, we’d still be in lockdown for so long. I would prefer to have my normal life rather than going on two vacation and having five months of lockdown.

  19. @Mike and @ David…Trudeau made a deal with a Chinese firm to develop a vaccine and China backed out of it due to an ongoing dispute over an extradition request for a Huawei executive. That fell thru.

  20. @Roland – excellent summary.

    Deflect from the true issues:
    *botched vaccine acquisition and rollout
    *millions of exemptions for anyone with a letter from their boss declaring themselves “essential”
    *porous land border allowing millions of untested and unquarantined crossings in the supply chain

    It would do us a lot more good to test truckers on a regular basis than to put the vaccinated, triple tested old couple coming back from Florida in prison for 3 days ….. but brainwashing of the sheeple that travel is bad, and variants will kill us all by the end of the month if we dont imprisoned said old couple, continues daily.

  21. I am so tired of this. I am a Canadian loving 5 miles into the US. My husband is American. My children live in Canada. I have not seen them in a year. I have a great grandchild and a grandchild born in Canada whom I have not seen yet. I am totally alone here at age 74. I was alone in Thanksgiving and New Years. My husband is in a nursing home and I cannot see him either. I have received both vaccines. When can I go home to see my family? I won’t live forever.

  22. Brigitte- My heart aches for you. I hope that you can use Messenger or Zoom to communicate with your loved ones. I, too, have loved ones living far away. I hope that you can find a church community or similar group of friends to ease your loneliness. I will pray for you. Know that you are not alone in your sadness.

  23. Do you guys think the border will open by summer I really need to see my girlfriend any suggestions on how I can still see her with all these restrictions?

  24. Any thoughts on travel in September? I am a US citizen, my wife is a Canadian citizen with legal permanent resident status in the US where we reside. Her family, mother and sisters live on Vancouver Island. We want to plan a trip, book airlines etc. for September 2021, we would normally come in the summer but are moving it back because of the situation. It has been 2 years since she has been able to visit because of Covid. Any thoughts on if the borders will open up by then???
    Thank you

  25. @Rgill

    By September most of the American population will have been vaccinated but the same will likely not be true for Canada. Since it is still unknown if someone who has been vaccinated can still infect others, I do not see Canada reopening the border until their own people are vaccinated.

    I live in Mexico and we have a similar problem with the border towns. There are many people who have family on both sides of the border but unless they are US citizens or residents they cannot travel into the United States. Mexico could care less and lets everyone in. Of course, they could still fly to the US but the costs would be prohibitive since there are no cross border flights. As an example if you lived in Nuevo Laredo, at a minimum you would have to transit Mexico City and Houston just to get to Laredo across the border.

    The president of Mexico asked Biden to share covid vaccines with Mexico and he refused stating that until all Americans were vaccinated, any idea of sharing would be off the table. Given that stance, it is clear that Mexico and Canada are on their own.

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