The mayor of Niagara Falls, Ont., says the reopening of the land border between Canada and the United States is “long overdue.”
Jim Diodati told Global News he’s “over the moon,” suggesting U.S. rules preventing two-way traffic over the summer essentially split Niagara Falls in half.
“It’s just a way of life to go shopping, visiting family, friends, go see a movie, buy some gas, buy some beer, go to the Buffalo Airport, catch an NFL football game or the Sabres,” Diodati said.
“It’s like going across town.”
Canada-U.S. border reopening a chance for neighbours to ‘connect again’
On Wednesday, senior White House officials said non-essential travellers will be allowed into the U.S. through border crossings, provided they are fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
Random screenings will take place to confirm vaccination status.
Those who have had any vaccine approved for emergency use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, as well as the World Health Organization, will be allowed to enter the country.
That means Canadians who received the AstraZeneca vaccine will be allowed into the U.S.
What’s unclear is whether those who had mixed-brands — say a Pfizer shot and Moderna shot – will be considered fully vaccinated.
COVID-19 testing will not be required to enter the U.S. by land or sea, however, proof of a negative COVID-19 test will still be necessary to board a flight to the States.
Since August, fully vaccinated U.S. citizens and permanent residents have been allowed to venture across borders in Niagara Falls and Fort Erie after Ottawa opted to loosen restrictions for travellers.
Diodati welcomed that news but said he did have to “scratch his head” on why it was not reciprocated by the U.S.
“Whether you go to the school in the U.S., you’ve got family in the U.S., whether you own property in the U.S. or vice versa. It’s been disruptive,” Diodati said.
The mayor says pre-pandemic economic data projected about 14 million people would visit the region in 2020 with 25 per cent expected from the U.S. representing 50 per cent of the tourist revenues.
U.S. to reopen Canada, Mexico land border to vaccinated travellers in early November
However, the pandemic and accompanying border shut down in March 2020 didn’t bring such numbers and was tough for those employed on the Canadian side of Niagara Region, with StatCan estimating 32,000 (15.6 per cent of the population) being affected by job losses between February and June of last year.
Even with the allowance of U.S. traffic into Canada, Diodati says his constituents are reporting challenges, as only a slow trickle of customers have decided to make the trip.
He suggests Canada should revisit testing requirements for those who are fully vaccinated, believing the added cost of families and friends having to fork over hundreds for a rapid test likely contributes to decisions not to cross.
“That’s a little too much and they don’t make that trip,” said Diodati.
“If we’re going under the premise that vaccines work, and we know they do, we’re hoping the fact everybody’s got to be fully vaccinated, we’re going to be reasonable with the testing.”
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