The United States has reached 13.5 million positive cases of the novel coronavirus as of November 30, more than any other country in the world. Its neighbors have seen large outbreaks as well, with over 300,000 cases in Canada and over one 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. However, as the second wave arrived in the fall and case numbers rose to record-breaking highs, some areas are reimplementing restrictions while others attempt to keep their economies open while fighting the virus.
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 November, some states are instituting partial shutdowns and freezes. Foreign nationals from China, most of Europe (including Ireland and the U.K.), Iran, and Brazil are banned from entering the country.
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 14 days. Beware that as cases rise in the U.S. states with quarantine mandates in place are getting more strict about who can enter without quarantining. 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 quarantine and mask mandates. Depending on your destination, some attractions, businesses, and even parks and outdoor recreation areas might be closed or will be open at a limited capacity.
Within Canada, each province has reopened on its own timeline, but the fall has brought a surge in positive cases at rates higher than at the start of the pandemic. Although new restrictions have been announced in certain regions to mitigate the second wave, there is no national lockdown. The border closure between the U.S. and Canada has been extended until December 21.
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. International flights can fly into four of the country's airports, including Vancouver International Airport and Pearson International Airport. These travel restrictions are expected to be in place until further notice.
All travelers entering Canada must be given a health assessment and undergo a 14-day quarantine upon arrival. You must check-in with the ArriveCAN app and have a quarantine plan that shows how you will abide by the 14-day mandatory quarantine. Those who do not follow quarantine guidelines are subject to a fine of up to $750,000, six months in jail, or removal.
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 December 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. In November, only two states were classified as 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 can fine, arrest, or detain anyone who does not follow regulations. Some popular tourist destinations like Cancun, Puerto Vallarta, and Los Cabos reopened in the summer with hotels operating at limited capacity.
The Department of Homeland Security. "Fact Sheet: DHS Measures on the Border to Limit the Further Spread of Coronavirus." October 22, 2020.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Travelers Prohibited From Entry to the US." September 14, 2020.
U.S. Embassy & Consulates in Mexico. "COVID-19 Information for U.S. Citizens in Mexico." November 26, 2020.