The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) said on Thursday that non-U.S. essential workers such as truck drivers and nurses crossing land borders must be properly vaccinated against COVID-19, beginning Saturday.
The Biden administration initially declared in October that, effective Nov. 8, non-essential international travellers from Canada and Mexico would be able to pass land borders into the United States provided they were vaccinated.
Because of COVID-19 concerns, the United States' land borders with Canada and Mexico have been blocked to non-essential travel for 20 months. On Thursday, the Department of Homeland Security said that those criteria will be extended to key employees who are not U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents. If you are not vaccinated you are likely to have to quarantine for 14 days upon entrance followed with strict testing regulations.
The new set of regulations have sparked uproar amongst the trucking community. According to the Canadian Trucking Alliance (CTA), the mandate may force 32,000, or 20%, of the 160,000 Canadian and American cross-border truck drivers off the road.
Even before the regulation, the sector was short 18,000 drivers, says the CTA.
Since the mandate was initially announced in November, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has rejected industry efforts to delay it. Trudeau defended the mandate on Wednesday, saying Canada was "aligned" with the United States, its main trade partner.
Jason Kenney, Alberta’s conservative provincial leader, has called for a pause of the restrictions last week. He took to Twitter, posting images of empty shelves from grocery stores calling for “immediate action” by the US and Canadian federal governments.
Similarly, Pierre Poilievre, shadow finance minister for the main federal opposition Conservative party, last week called the requirements a “vaccine vendetta against our hardworking truckers” that would drive up inflation and result in “empty shelves” at stores. Indeed, in December, Canada's inflation rate reached a 30-year high of 4.8 percent and the vaccination requirement may help to keep prices higher for longer.
Here in the US, inflation increased by 7% year on year in December, the highest increase in over four decades. More than two-thirds of the C$650 billion ($521 billion) in goods traded annually between Canada and the United States travels on roads.
On the 23rd January, a convoy of truckers marched from Vancouver to the Canadian capital city of Ottawa to protest the government's COVID-19 vaccination requirement for truckers, which the industry claims would result in driver shortages and fuel inflation. Truckers fighting the mandate under the banner Freedom Convoy 2022 had received C$2.7 million ($2.2 million) by Sunday via a gofundme campaign.
According to the gofundme website, the funds generated will be used to help with the costs of petrol, food, and hotels for those protesting in Ottowa. Howvever, the CTA said in a statement Saturday that it “strongly disapproves” of the protests on public roads, highways and bridges. Protests that interfere with public safety are not an appropriate way to express disagreement with government policies, the CTA said.