US-NEWS-CORONAVIRUS-US-BORDERS-SE

The Peace Arch sits on the border between the U.S. and Canada on June 16.

The U.S. borders with Canada and Mexico will remain closed at land and ferry crossings for at least another month as the pandemic continues to pose a threat to “human life or national interests,” federal officials said Wednesday.

Any movement between the U.S. and its neighbors will be limited to “essential travel” only until Aug. 21, the Department of Homeland Security said in a draft notice set to be published Thursday. The restrictions have been in place since March 2020, when the deadly outbreak officially became a global pandemic.

The announcement comes just a day after Canada said it would finally allow fully vaccinated travelers, including Americans, to visit the country for the first time in more than a year. The air travel ban is set to be lifted on Aug. 9 for U.S. citizens and permanent residents and Sept. 7 for those from other countries.

But officials in the U.S., Canada and Mexico have “mutually determined” that non-essential travel at their land and ferry crossings “poses additional risk of transmission and spread of the virus associated with COVID-19 and places the populace of both nations at increased risk of contracting the virus,” according to the DHS notice.

The agency said sustained transmission of the virus and the risk of new variants would also place its staff in each port of entry at risk of contracting COVID-19.

The number of new infections and deaths in the U.S. has been ticking up in recent days, especially in states with low vaccination rates.

In Mexico, where only 17% of the population is fully vaccinated, the virus has killed more than 1,500 people in the past seven days, according to data from Johns Hopkins University’s Coronavirus Resource Center. Canada, meanwhile, has seen a drop in infections and deaths as more than half of its population is now fully vaccinated.

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