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(Tribune News Service) — The Department of Homeland Security says the U.S. borders with Canada and Mexico will remain restricted through at least June 21, with only trade and essential travel allowed until then.

DHS confirmed the move in a tweet Thursday, but noted it is "working closely with Canada & Mexico to safely ease restrictions as conditions improve."

The agency, in conjunction with its Canadian and Mexican counterparts, originally closed the U.S.' northern and southern borders to leisure travelers in March 2020, at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. The restrictions have been extended on a monthly basis ever since.

In the intervening year, Canada has tightened its border security, requiring anyone entering by plane or land to be tested in advance for COVID-19. In addition, anyone traveling to Canada from the U.S. must prove that they are doing so for essential reasons and must quarantine upon arrival.

In February, Canada announced it was banning cruise ships from its waters until 2022. Since then, legislators have worked to salvage the 2021 Alaska cruise season. Last week, the U.S. Senate passed the Alaska Tourism Restoration Act, which would allow large cruise ships to skip required stops in Canadian ports while traveling between Washington and Alaska.

Earlier this month, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation he would prefer to wait until 75% of his country is vaccinated before fully reopening the border; according to USA TODAY data, 48.1% have been at least partially vaccinated as of Thursday.

"My gut tells me it's going to be (closed) at least well into the fall of 2021," he predicted a week earlier.

Southbound travel from the U.S. into Mexico's northern border cities has gone unchecked since the beginning of the pandemic, and Americans can still fly there. . However, last week week, the governor of Quintana Roo state, home to the tourist-friendly towns of Cancún, Cozumel and Tulum, warned it was at danger of "imminent lockdown" due to a five-week-long increase in COVID cases there.

Gov. Carlos Joaquín suggested that increased tourism around Easter played a role in the rise. Anecdotal evidence suggests tourists are attracted to Mexico's Caribbean resorts in part because there has been no lockdown and sanitary measures are largely voluntary. Many visitors shed their masks when they reach their hotels or beach clubs.

About 12.5% of Mexicans are fully vaccinated while 8.3% have had their first shot. As of Thursday, 38.2% of Americans are fully vaccinated and 48.1% are partially vaccinated.

Contributing: Morgan Hines, Julia Thompson, Karen Weintraub, USA TODAY; Lauren Villagran, El Paso Times

(c)2021 USA Today

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Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.


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