US extends COVID vaccine requirement at land borders

The requirement, which applies to non US citizens and residents, was first put in place in November last year.

US border
The Department of Homeland Security did not give a timeline for the extension, but said it aimed to protect public health while facilitating trade and travel [File: Elaine Thompson/AP Photo]

The administration of US President Joe Biden has extended a COVID-19 vaccination requirement for non-US citizens crossing land or ferry terminals at the United States’s borders with Mexico and Canada.

In a statement on Thursday, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) said the extension followed a consultation with federal health agencies, including the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

“The Biden-Harris Administration is committed to protecting public health while facilitating lawful trade and travel, which is essential to our economic security,” said Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas.

The requirements do not apply to US citizens and residents, and DHS did not give a timeline for the extension.

The requirements were first adopted in November of last year as the US reopened its land crossings to foreign tourists; they had been closed to most foreign visitors since March 2020.

The changes do not affect current requirements that all travellers to the US, regardless of citizenship, present a negative antigen test taken no more than one day before the date of departure.

The extension comes days after a federal judge in the US state of Florida struck down a CDC mandate that required travellers to wear masks on public transit across the country, including on aeroplanes, trains and subways.

The US Department of Justice announced on Wednesday that it planned to appeal the decision following a recommendation from the CDC, which had said the mandate for travel “remains necessary to protect the public health”.

Local jurisdictions can still decide to implement mask requirements.

Health officials have said they are closely monitoring an uptick in COVID-19 cases across the US, although they have noted that hospitalisations for the disease remain very low.

The country has reported the highest number of COVID-19 deaths in the world, with more than 990,200 fatalities since the pandemic began, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies