US extends Canada, Mexico travel restrictions for COVID-19

The highly contagious Delta variant is spreading rapidly in the US, with deaths rising to more than 600 per day.

The US has renewed its limits on nonessential travel from Canada and Mexico for another month [David Ryder/Reuters]

The United States government has extended a one-month ban on nonessential travel along the borders with Canada and Mexico to slow the rising spread of COVID-19 despite increasing political pressure to lift the restriction.

US border communities that are dependent on shoppers from Mexico and Canada and their political representatives have urged the Biden administration to lift the ban.

The Department of Homeland Security said in a tweet on Friday the restrictions on nonessential travel were still needed to minimise the spread of COVID-19. It extended the ban until at least September 21.

The highly contagious Delta variant of the coronavirus is spreading rapidly worldwide and in the US where the seven-day average of new cases has risen to 133,000 a day, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Hospitalisations in the US are averaging more than 11,000 per day and daily deaths from COVID-19 have risen to 641, according to the CDC.

Announcing the renewed travel restrictions, DHS officials said the agency is working with public health and medical experts to determine how to “safely and sustainably resume normal travel”.

American tourists who are fully vaccinated against the coronavirus are being allowed to enter Canada after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government earlier this month lifted restrictions.

The US travel restrictions have been in place since early in the pandemic in March 2020 and repeatedly extended while allowing commercial traffic and essential crossings to continue.

Separate from the Canada and Mexico land border restrictions, the US bars most non-US citizens who within the previous 14 days have been in the United Kingdom, Ireland, 26 countries in Europe, China, India, South Africa, Iran and Brazil.

Large companies across the US have announced that COVID-19 vaccines will be required for their employees to return to work in person, although requiring vaccines, masks and social distancing remains a political issue in some areas.

Across the US, 200 million people have been fully vaccinated, or about 60 percent of those eligible.

Meanwhile, Canadian banks Toronto-Dominion Bank and Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce will require employees entering their premises to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 from this fall, according to company memos seen by Reuters news agency on Friday.

The moves follow a similar measure announced to staff by the Royal Bank of Canada on Thursday as companies battle the spread of the coronavirus in their offices.

In the US state of Montana, which borders Canada, a law passed by the state’s Republican-controlled legislature, requiring vaccines as a condition for employment is deemed “discrimination” and a violation of the state’s human rights laws.

Only 49 percent of people in sparsely-populated Montana have been vaccinated.

US health officials have been reviewing incoming data showing the declining effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines and have recommended all Americans receive booster jabs eight months after first being fully vaccinated.

Trial data from AstraZeneca on Friday raised the prospect of a new treatment to prevent COVID-19 beyond vaccines, giving hope in particular for people who respond poorly to immunisation shots.

The British drugmaker said its new antibody therapy reduced the risk of people developing any COVID-19 symptoms by 77 percent in a late-stage trial.

While vaccines rely on an intact immune system to develop an arsenal of targeted antibodies and infection-fighting cells, AstraZeneca’s new therapy consists of lab-made antibodies.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies