Travel to North America: A Reopening Timeline, Country by Country

Mexico Ease Some Restrictions Amid Coronavirus Pandemic
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The United States has reached 33 million positive cases of the novel coronavirus, more than any other country in the world. However, case numbers have significantly slowed down in 2021 as more people are vaccinated. Its neighbors have seen outbreaks as well, with over 1 million 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.

United States

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 in regards to restaurants, attractions, and retail businesses, but by May 2021, most states have lifted business restrictions and some are totally open and have lifted mask mandates. Foreign nationals from India, 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.

In April, the CDC condoned test- and quarantine-free travel across states for any fully-vaccinated traveler. Currently, there are no federal restrictions on domestic travel, but a few states are asking non-vaccinated tourists to get tested and self-isolate on arrival.

Canada 

On January 31, the Canadian government suspended all flights to Mexico and the Caribbean. 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 June 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 and winter brought on surges 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. Flights from India and Pakistan have been suspended as of April 22.

Mexico

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 May 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. As of May 31, only the state of Quintana Roo is orange and no states are red. 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.

Article Sources
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  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Travelers Prohibited From Entry to the US." April 30, 2021.

  2. Government of Canada. "Government of Canada Introduces Further Travel Restrictions on International Travel." January 29, 2021.

  3. Government of Canada. "Coronavirus disease (COVID-19): Who Can Travel to Canada - Citizens, Permanent Residents, Foreign Nationals and Refugees." April 22, 2021.

  4. U.S. Embassy & Consulates in Mexico. "COVID-19 Information for U.S. Citizens in Mexico." June 4, 2021.

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