U.S. extends COVID-19 vaccination requirement for those entering at land, ferry points
Requirement still applies for Canadians entering U.S. through land or water ports of entry
The United States government is extending a requirement that non-U.S. citizens crossing land or ferry terminals at the U.S.-Mexico and U.S.-Canada borders must be vaccinated against the coronavirus.
The requirements were first adopted in November as part of reopening the United States to land crossings by foreign tourists after the borders had been closed to most visitors since March 2020. The vaccination requirements had been set to expire on Thursday.
There are some limited exceptions to the rules, including for those who have recently recovered from COVID-19.
The Homeland Security Department (DHS) said the decision was made after consultation with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), citing the great disparity in hospitalization and death rates among the unvaccinated as compared to the vaccinated.
DHS did not announce a duration for the extension, saying the requirement "may be amended or rescinded at any time."
In January, DHS extended vaccination requirements to foreign essential workers such as truck drivers and nurses crossing U.S. land borders.
Michigan Agri-Business Association President Chuck Lippstreu criticized the DHS for "failure to provide common-sense exemptions to this policy for agricultural truck drivers" and said it "flies in the face of reality on the ground here in Michigan, where our agriculture sector continues facing supply disruptions, increases in cross-border trucking costs and an ongoing driver shortage."
Some American truckers have protested the rules, though demonstrations over mandates were not as widespread as seen in Canada during the winter.
International air travellers over the age of two, regardless of citizenship, must provide a negative test for the virus before arriving, and those who are not U.S. citizens must also show proof of vaccination.
People travelling at land or ferry crossings do not need to provide a negative test.
At the southern border with Mexico, the U.S. government has said it plans in late May to end a public health mandate, known as Title 42, that has prevented migrants from arriving at border points to seek asylum.
Canadian rule changes announced, too
Meanwhile, major American airlines want the government to end COVID-19 pre-departure testing requirements for vaccinated international passengers travelling to the United States.
They argue testing requirements are unnecessary and deter Americans from travelling abroad because of testing costs and risks they could be stranded abroad if they test positive.
A Florida court in the past week struck down a mask mandate for those travelling on U.S. flights, with Joe Biden's administration saying it plans to appeal the ruling.
WATCH | The U.S. will no longer enforce masking onboard planes:
Canadian government officials on Friday announced several small changes of its own to ease restrictions for international travellers that will take effect on April 25. Unvaccinated children aged five-to-11 travelling with a fully vaccinated adult will no longer need a COVID-19 test to enter Canada, while fully vaccinated travellers, and any kids under 12 accompanying them, will no longer need to provide their quarantine plans when they enter the country.
When vaccinated people arrive in Canada, they won't need to wear a mask for 14 days, keep a list of contacts or report COVID-19 symptoms.
With files from CBC News