Bad news for those who are looking to start travelling again as September begins, as the Canadian Federal Government is extending travel restrictions into Canada in order to combat the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The travel restrictions are now set to last until September 30, according to a tweet from Public Safety Minister Bill Blair:
Our government is extending the existing restrictions on international travel to Canada by one month – until September 30, 2020 – to limit the introduction and spread of COVID-19 in our communities… Canadian citizens and permanent residents returning to Canada will continue to be subject to strict quarantine measures.
The extension of the restriction means that Canadian citizens and permanent residents returning to Canada from abroad will be subject to the quarantine measures that have been in place since the beginning of the pandemic. The restrictions include screening travellers at their port of entry for symptoms such as cough, fever or trouble breathing. Those who show symptoms are required to isolate for 14 days and those who do not show symptoms are required to quarantine for 14 days. Remember that you must have a quarantine plan ready for when you cross the border in order to avoid the 14-day isolation. The plan must include a place to stay, details about how you will reach your destination, how you will get groceries, and how you will access essential services and medical care if necessary.
The Canada-United States border is currently closed and is set to remain closed until at least September 21 based on the most recent agreement between the two nations. The border closure has put an enormous amount of pressure on many Americans who rely on international travel in order to access more affordable medical care. For example, diabetic Americans often make the trip to Canada or Mexico in order to buy insulin. The price of insulin in Canada can be much less than it is in the United States. For Americans without sufficient funds to meet their medical needs, the border closure represents an abject disaster, as money is tight for many people during the pandemic, and extra medical costs right now are adding to the perilous situation faced by many families.
The percentage of Americans who rely on less costly, out-of-country medication is small, as only 1.5% of the prescription medication users regularly leave the United States in order to buy their prescriptions at a cheaper price. However, the 1.5% figure represents an estimated 2.3 million people who have been mostly forced to source their medications domestically due to the border restrictions. Further, the price disparity is recognized by some U.S. insurance companies which offer paid trips to Vancouver and Tijuana in order to save money on prescriptions for the people they offer insurance to. Pharmacists and dentists in Mexican border towns advertise their services to Americans at prices cheaper than they would find domestically.
Many Americans have had their health impacted by the border closure, and many Mexicans and Canadians working in pharmacies close to the border have seen a corresponding loss of profit, with some reporting up to 40% less business since the border closure. Compounding the issue is the fact that bringing prescription drugs into the U.S. is illegal, but the Food and Drug Administration has stated that importation may be allowed if the medicine does not exceed a three month supply. Some Americans have been able to order their medications online, but there is a risk that the medications will be confiscated during shipping, be mishandled during transport, or not arrive when the person needs it, as medication delivery by the USPS has been delayed recently.
Even if larger scale importation of prescription drugs is allowed by the FDA, Canada may not be willing to provide enough medication in order to drastically lower the prices in the United States, as increased drug exports to the U.S. could lead to drug shortages within Canada. Amidst a global pandemic, there is enough for the average person to worry about on a day-to-day basis, without having to worry about being able to afford life-saving medications.
Make sure you stay updated on regional restrictions and regulations before you make your arrangements. If you are trying to travel and need to prepare an exemption request, be sure that you fit into one of the stated exemptions from the country you are trying to travel to. If you have questions about where you can travel, please do not hesitate to contact us.
The immigration lawyers at Garson Immigration Law are continuing to monitor the immigration fallout in relation to COVID-19 on both sides of the border and will provide updates as the situation develops. If you have any questions about your potential classification as essential or about how you should comply with the changing regulations, do not hesitate to reach out to us online or by calling us at 416-321-2860.