June 5, 2020
The United States is known as a melting pot into which people have migrated for jobs, a better life and more opportunity. Traveling to the United States is a necessity for those who have school and family here. However, the ravaging effects of the novel coronavirus has resulted in a travel ban into the United States for an uncertain amount of time. The indefinite shutdown of borders undoubtedly places additional stress on those who depend on the ability to travel. As coronavirus continues to overwhelm the world’s hospitals and wreak havoc on the daily lives of people everywhere, there is no definite timeline for when the world can return to normal.
As the coronavirus began sweeping through the United States, the Department of Homeland Security originally placed travel bans on March 21, 2020. These measures were most recently extended on May 19 to last until June 22. The United States is closely working with its bordering countries to establish these rules in order to keep its populations safe and prevent the spread of the coronavirus as much as possible. These regulations include the stopping of any recreational activity, and only allowing those who have necessary business in the bordering country. Borders for both entering and leaving Mexico and Canada subsequently closed, with little promise of opening for nonessential travel anytime soon.
What constitutes “essential travel?” To decide this, the United States created joint initiatives with the Mexican and Canadian governments to implement regulations and decipher the difference between essential and non-essential travel. On its website, the Department of Homeland Security simply defines non-essential travel as “travel that is considered tourism or recreational in nature.” While the governments understand that people rely on crossing borders for vital services, tourism and other recreational activities are deemed non-essential and halted until further notice. Travel such as trade, commerce and other urgent services will not be impacted by the border shutdown. It is imperative that the United States cooperates with its neighboring countries during this period of uncertainty and anxiety. These are unprecedented times, which call for new rules and regulations to be implemented. Until it is safe, only those with necessary business to attend to will be allowed to enter a different country.
Canada is particularly strict in their regulations for entering the country. They require mandatory protocol to be followed when entering the country through means of essential travel, and they are enforcing strict procedures. The country’s official website outlines rigid rules, including a health assessment upon arrival and an obligatory 14 day self-quarantine. If this quarantine is broken, penalties include “fines up to $750,000, 6 months of jail time, being found inadmissible, removed from Canada and banned from entering for 1 year.” These serious punishments are necessary to prevent the deadly coronavirus from further infiltrating the country. These seemingly extreme measures appear to be working, as Canada reports that despite having over 89,400 confirmed cases, there have been 6,979 COVID-19 related deaths as of May 30, 2020. Intense efforts such as these not only limit the spread of a highly contagious disease, but saves lives in the process.
Mexico has been taking similar precautions. Suspending tourist and recreational activity for the time being is one of the similar precautions Mexico has taken during this time. Normal essential and necessary travel will not be impacted. In addition to non-essential travel being halted, Mexico also advises abstaining from unnecessary contact with other people. The country may also subject essential travelers into the country to health screenings, temperature checks and possible quarantine. These prudent measures are helping reduce the spread of coronavirus throughout Mexico. As of May 30, 2020, the country had 84,627 cases, with 9,415 deaths. However, some news outlets including the New York Times, have suspected Mexico of not reporting every COVID-19 related death that has occurred, which could substantially raise their overall death toll. In order to further protect its citizens, the country must continue to be vigilant with its regulations.
As coronavirus continues to spread throughout the world, it is important now more than ever for countries to work together to help its citizens take necessary precautions, such as avoiding close contact and suspending recreational activity. It is also vital to continue practicing social distancing, regularly washing your hands and listening to updates given by leading health professionals. We have not lived through a pandemic of this caliber before, and the entire world has seemingly been put on pause. Each country must do its part to protect its citizens and create the safest possible living conditions for them. With more states slowly opening back up, the risks of spreading the virus remain present. As long as borders are closed, the spread of coronavirus is lowered. However, people rely on crossing into neighboring countries for medicine, work and to see loved ones. As people continue to recover and the number of cases decreases, each country will likely grant more leniency for their citizens to slowly resume regular activity. As these are unprecedented times, there is no guideline for how soon we may return to normalcy.
Claire Bahorski (@clairebahorski) is a junior at Michigan State University studying Humanities Pre-Law, with concentrations in Public and Professional Writing and History. In her free time, she loves spending time with her friends and family and watching movies. She hopes to always continue writing, along with her aspirations of becoming an attorney.