BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – Rep. Brian Higgins sent a letter Friday, asking the United States and Canada to expand the definition of “essential travel” to include three additional categories. Non-essential travel at the border between the two countries has been banned since March as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
Earlier this week, the two countries extended the restriction to last through June 22nd.
In a letter to Acting U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf and Canadian Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Bill Blair, Higgins asked that “essential travel” include the following:
- travel to visit family
- travel to manage business interests
- travel to inspect, secure, or manage property
“It’s very important to the economies of Western New York and Southern Ontario, as well as life-quality,” Higgins told News 4. “There are a lot of opportunities within tourism to travel safely where you don’t endanger anybody else, nor do you endanger yourself.”
Currently, “essential” travel includes those traveling for work, school, medical purposes, or trade, among other things.
A spokespersons for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security did not immediately return a request for comment.
However, Mary-Liz Power, press secretary for Canada’s Office of the Minister of Public Safety said measures taken to date have been effective in eliminating non-essential travel.
“We will do what is necessary to keep Canadians safe and will base our decisions on the best public health evidence available. At the present time, the situation on both sides of the border does not indicate that it is appropriate to change our posture,” Power said.
Canadian officials say during the week of May 4 to May 10, volume at land border crossings was down 88 percent compared to the same time last year.
Chris Horvatits is an award-winning reporter and anchor who started working at WIVB in 2017. A Lancaster native, he came to Buffalo after working at stations in Rochester and Watertown. See more of his work here and follow him on Twitter.