The United States has reached 29 million positive cases of the novel coronavirus as of March 8, more than any other country in the world. Its neighbors have seen outbreaks as well, with over 870,000 cases in Canada and over 2 million cases in Mexico. The onset of the pandemic prompted border closures, flight cancellations, and lockdowns throughout North America. Although many U.S. states and parts of Canada and Mexico have reopened their economies, a temporary restriction on non-essential travel between Canada, Mexico, and the United States has been in place since March 21, 2020.
Read on for more information about coronavirus-related travel restrictions in North America.
The United States reopened gradually on a state-by-state basis with local governments calling the shots. Rules on occupancy limits and mask mandates vary widely in regards to restaurants, attractions, and retail businesses, and amid a surge of cases in late 2020, some states have instituted partial shutdowns and freezes. Foreign nationals from China, most of Europe (including Ireland and the U.K.), Iran, Brazil, and South Africa are banned from entering the country. Any traveler entering the United States from abroad, including returning U.S. citizens, will need to show proof of a negative test taken within 72 hours of departure and must quarantine on arrival.
Currently, there are no federal restrictions on domestic travel, but some states are asking tourists to stay away, implementing laws requiring incoming travelers to self-quarantine for 10 or 14 days. States with quarantine mandates are strict about who can enter without quarantining and the majority of states are regarded as high-risk. 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. Some states and cities are enforcing fines for those who violate quarantines and mask mandates.
On January 31, the Canadian government suspended all flights to Mexico and the Caribbean until April 30, 2021. International flights can fly into four of the country's airports in Calgary, Montreal, Toronto, and Vancouver. The border closure between the U.S. and Canada has been extended until March 21.
As of February 22, any traveler entering Canada will be PCR tested upon landing and are required to book three nights while awaiting the results at a quarantine hotel in Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal, or Calgary.
All travelers entering Canada must be given a health assessment and undergo a 14-day quarantine upon arrival. They will also need to show a negative test taken within 72 hours of departure and reserve a hotel room at a government-approved hotel to quarantine for three nights while awaiting the results of another PCR test. This also applies to travelers entering by land.
Travelers who test negative can then opt to finish out their mandatory 14-day quarantine from home. Fines for those caught violating quarantine could cost up to $750,000.
Within Canada, each province has reopened on its own timeline, but the fall brought a surge in positive cases at rates higher than at the start of the pandemic. Although new restrictions and tight lockdowns have been announced in certain regions and cities to mitigate the second wave, there is no national lockdown.
Canada is only 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 and extended family members of Canadian citizens, who must consent to a medical check and provide proof of relationship and travel documents.
Mexico never officially closed its borders, but while the 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 March 21. However, there are no restrictions in place on flights traveling between Mexico and the U.S. Upon arrival, travelers may be asked to submit to a temperature check and quarantine if they show symptoms.
Mexico's reopening plan is a stoplight system with states entering each colored phase on their own timeline. By March, 11 states in Mexico are orange and no states are red. In 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 may fine, arrest, or detain anyone who does not follow regulations.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Travelers Prohibited From Entry to the US." February 19, 2021.
Government of Canada. "Government of Canada Introduces Further Travel Restrictions on International Travel." January 29, 2021.
Government of Canada. "Coronavirus disease (COVID-19): Who Can Travel to Canada - Citizens, Permanent Residents, Foreign Nationals and Refugees." February 21, 2021.
U.S. Embassy & Consulates in Mexico. "COVID-19 Information for U.S. Citizens in Mexico." March 8, 2021.