Mayor in Southern Ontario says phased border reopening could begin later this month

Local News

NIAGARA FALLS, Ontario (WIVB) – When Julie Warman sold her Clarence home in 2019, she anticipated she would be splitting her time between the property she owns in Ontario’s Point Abino and the West Coast of the United States, where her children are. Then COVID hit. That left her stuck in San Diego with just a single suitcase of clothing.

She has to rely on someone to check on her property once a month.

“Honestly, I have no idea if there are mice swinging from my chandeliers,” Warman said.

She knows there are a lot of logistics to figure out before the United States and Canada reopen their shared border. So she’s taking a measured approach as she waits for updates.

“Are they going to shorten the quarantine?” she asked. “Are they going to require COVID tests? Property owners can prove they’re property owners. But for the families that have personal ties there, how do you sort through that and prove you have personal ties?”

The border initially shut down in March 2020, in the early days of the pandemic. That closure has been extended on a month-by-month basis, and is currently set to expire on June 21st.

Niagara Falls, Ontario Mayor Jim Diodati, who has been in touch with Canada’s Public Safety Minister in recent weeks, says he believes there is a path toward commencing a phased reopening when that happens.

“So that on or before June 21st, when Canada hits 75% first vaccination and 20% double vaccination, that our government would be prepared to start opening the border,” Diodati said.

However, on Wednesday, a group of Canadian health officials indicated the first steps could be further off, saying they were considering early July to relax certain requirements for those already permitted to enter Canada. This step would not impact restrictions on tourists.

Currently, 57% of the Canadian population has received at least one dose of the vaccine, according to the government’s official website. That same site shows just 5.7% of the total population is fully vaccinated.

“Understand that plans are always subject to change,” Diodati said. “That’s fine. But you have to start with a plan.”

“If this were to happen, we expect that they’re going to have a caveat that you are doubly vaccinated initially to start and (show) some proof thereof,” he added.

Diodati said he believes things could be completely back to normal at the border by the end of summer.

Warman is watching closes to see what happens, and expects a rush at the border once restrictions are lifted.

“I think it’s going to be chaotic, even with NEXUS,” she said. “Even with whatever proof that I have, it’s just going to take that time for the border folks to actually examine your documents and question you.

“I can’t imagine what the lines are going to be like.”

Chris Horvatits is an award-winning anchor and reporter who has been part of the News 4 team since 2017. See more of his work here.

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