The United States has reached 2.3 million positive cases of the novel coronavirus as of mid-June. Its neighbors, Canada and Mexico, have seen large outbreaks as well, prompting border closures, flight cancellations, and lockdowns throughout the region. Read on for more information about coronavirus-related travel restrictions in North America.
The United States is beginning to reopen gradually on a state-by-state basis with local governments calling the shots. Some states started opening as early as late April, and others are only beginning the early stages to open as of mid-June.
Currently, there are no federal restrictions on domestic travel, but some states are asking tourists to stay away. Others, including Maine and Hawaii, have implemented laws requiring incoming travelers to self-quarantine for 14 days. If you do need or want to travel, be sure to follow all local regulations and guidelines, including any quarantine procedures, social distancing, and face mask requirements. And consider that depending on your destination, many attractions, businesses, and even parks and outdoor recreation areas might be closed or limiting capacity.
The U.S. had gradually been closing its borders to foreign visitors. As of mid-June, foreign nationals from China, most of Europe (including Ireland and the U.K.), Iran, and Brazil are banned from entering the country. Essential travel is now permitted between the U.S. and Canada and Mexico. (Discretionary travel between the U.S. and Mexico is banned through at least July 21.)
Canada is currently open to citizens, permanent residents, protected persons, persons registered under the Indian Act, and "foreign nationals who are coming for an essential (non-discretionary) purpose." Exceptions will be granted to a select group of people, including immediate family members of Canadian citizens, who must consent to a medical check and provide proof of relationship and travel documents. International flights can fly into four of the country's airports, including Vancouver International Airport and Pearson International Airport. Travel restrictions are expected to be in place through June 30.
All travelers entering Canada must be given a health assessment and undergo a 14-day quarantine upon arrival. Those who do not follow quarantine guidelines are subject to a fine of up to $750,000, six months in jail, or removal.
Within Canada, each province is reopening on its own timeline. Most of Ontario, for example, entered phase two of its three-part reopening plan. Quebec has been opening regions in stages—retail is allowed to open in all regions, however, restaurants can open in regions excluding Montreal.
While all airports remain open, all arriving and departing passengers will be subject to health screenings. Non-essential travel between the Mexico-U.S. land border has been restricted through July 21, and travelers may be asked to submit to a temperature check and quarantine within the country. The Mexican government closed non-essential businesses in most municipalities through May 30 and initiated a phased economic reopening plan on June 1. The plan is a stoplight system with states entering each colored phase on their own timeline. As of mid-June, all states are either orange or red. Under the red phase, hotels and parks can operate at 25 percent occupancy, and only essential activities are allowed. Under the orange phase, restaurants, parks, gyms, and hotels are limited to 50 percent capacity while malls, churches, theaters, museums, and other cultural activities can operate at 25 percent capacity.
Mexican states and municipalities may issue additional restrictions. Some require residents to wear face masks, and can fine, arrest, or detain those who do not follow regulations.
Government of Ontario. “Reopening Ontario in stages.”
Government of Quebec. “Gradual resumption of activities under the COVID-19-related pause.”
U.S. Embassy & Consulates in Mexico. “Health Alert – Mexico COVID-19 Update.” May 20, 2020