The Biden administration says the U.S. border will reopen to land and ferry crossings in early November to fully vaccinated Canadians.
“We are trading partners, we are friends, and for the first time in 19 months we are going to be reunited to generate all that economic activity again,” said U.S. Congressman Brian Higgins today.
It’s good news for Black Ball Ferries, whose Coho sailings from Victoria to Port Angeles have been suspended since March of 2020 because of the border shut down due to the pandemic.
“Excited, you know. Certainly, we want to get operating,” said Ryan Burles, CEO of Black Ball Ferries. “This is good news, we just need clarification on the details.”
Those details, like when the American border will actually open, and if the U.S. will accept the mixing and matching of vaccines, are still being worked out.
“A lot of Canadians are concerned about the mixing and matching of vaccines, you never saw that down here,” said American immigration lawyer Len Saunders. “Hopefully, the American government allows some sort of mixing and matching of vaccines that they’ve approved and that doesn’t prevent Canadians who maybe have one dose which is acceptable and one dose that isn’t, from crossing over to the United States once again.”
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved three COVID-19 vaccines, and AstraZeneca was not among them. It is, however, approved by the WHO. However, the U.S. recently granted travellers who have been immunized against COVID-19 with the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine to enter the country.
While that issue gets ironed out, Saunders says he expects when the American border does open up it’s going to look a more lax than the Canadian side when it comes to checking vaccination requirements.
“I’m told it’s going to kind of be like spot checks, so I think it’s going to be more of a voluntary like ‘yes I’ve been vaccinated’ and they’ll let you go,” said Saunders. “Then they’ll send some individuals into secondary for random checks. So I don’t think it’ll be as diligent as the Canadian border officers have been.”
Another difference, Canadians heading into the United States do not have to show a negative COVID-19 test. On their way back to Canada however, they will. Something Black Ball Ferries says will be a barrier to starting service again.
“I think that’s definitely a big hurdle that would make us not want to run,” said Burles. “It’s been difficult for people to get that test in a 72 hour time span and the price.”
Burles and several members of U.S. Congress are calling for Canada to drop the Canadian COVDID-19 test requirement for vaccinated travellers.
If Canada does, Black Ball Ferries says they’ll likely be able to get up and running within two weeks.
The Clipper, which tried to make a comeback with one-way travel mid-September told CHEK News they’ll still be suspending service until spring 2022.
American officials still have yet to announce what type of documentation that will be accepted to prove a traveller’s vaccination status.