The United States has reached 6.8 million positive cases of the novel coronavirus as of September 21, more than any other country in the world. 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. As of September 21, foreign nationals from China, most of Europe (including Ireland and the U.K.), Iran, and Brazil are banned from entering the country. Discretionary travel between the U.S. and Mexico is banned through at least October 21.
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. 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. Depending on your destination, many attractions, businesses, and even parks and outdoor recreation areas might be closed or are limiting capacity.
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 until further notice.
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 three of its three-part reopening plan. Quebec has also been opening in stages—retail and restaurants are allowed to open in all regions at reduced capacity. The province of British Columbia is in phase three, which means restaurants are open but groups are limited to six people and social distancing is in place.
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 October 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 early September, all states are either orange or yellow, except for Colima which is in the 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 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 New York Times. "Covid World Map: Tracking the Global Outbreak." September 21, 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." September 19, 2020.
Government of Ontario. “Reopening Ontario in stages.”
Government of Quebec. “Gradual resumption of activities under the COVID-19-related pause.”
Government of British Columbia. "What's Happening in Phase 3." September 8, 2020.
U.S. Embassy & Consulates in Mexico. “Health Alert – Mexico COVID-19 Update.” May 20, 2020
The National Law Review. "Mexico’s COVID-19 Traffic Light Monitoring System: News for August 31, 2020, to September 13, 2020." September 5, 2020.
Travel Pulse. "Mexico Tourism Hotspots' COVID-19 Protocols: What Travelers Can Expect." August 27, 2020.