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Virtual hugs across the Canada-US border are the way to go for now

By Furyal Hussain, February 4 2021—

On Jan. 12, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that the US-Canada border is to remain closed until Feb. 21. The rationale behind this decision is that both countries need to do what is necessary to keep citizens safe, though many seem to have an opposing outlook. 

The United States has an exceptionally high positivity rate for the virus, and opening the borders may result in a similar situation in Canada. More people would feel inclined to visit both sides of the border, which will ultimately lead to high transmission rates in both countries. According to Johns Hopkins University, the United States has the highest COVID-19 cases in the world, with a positivity rate of 75,511 per one million people. Contrarily, Canada has a positivity rate of 19,802 per one million people. This figure alone shows the high risk involved with opening the US-Canada border to non-essential travel. Opening the border would be opening both countries to an influx of COVID-19 cases.

For the most part, this news has been welcomed by Canadians around the country, but some critics took to social media to voice their complaints. The hashtag #LetUsReunite began trending shortly after the announcement was made. Twitter users denounced the Canadian government’s decision, claiming that families and loved ones are being unnecessarily separated. Some users mentioned not having seen their spouses or partners, whereas others exhibited disdain about an infringement of their rights. 

The hashtag also featured complaints from Canadians and Americans alike, claiming that they have been following all public health restrictions and guidelines since the beginning of the pandemic and thus, border restrictions should be lax on this merit. Though there may be some authenticity to this claim, it is simply not viable to keep track of who has or hasn’t been following restrictions. Even attempting to develop a rigorous vetting process for this purpose would be too costly and strain our already overwhelmed medical and political systems. 

Similarly, some have advocated for exceptions to be made on compassionate grounds, such as cases of death. Unfortunately, this isn’t a viable option either because of the small percentage of people that may take advantage of this exception. Canadians and Americans alike are already going on vacations despite the current measures in place by claiming it as essential travel in the off-chance that they are inquired about it. 

Nonetheless, it is incredibly frustrating to be separated from family and friends indefinitely and miss birthdays, weddings, funerals and other significant occurrences. But this is a sacrifice that is imperative to flattening the curve in both countries. If we want to see one another freely on both sides of the border, it is critical to follow guidelines and hold on for just a few more months.

That being said, does simply “closing the border” accomplish much? Canadians and Americans alike continue to travel for the holidays, including politicians. The vetting processes currently in place are not strict enough to ensure whether or not all this travel is essential or nonessential. If the Canadian government wants citizens to listen and conform to the restrictions on the basis of the greater good, politicians mustn’t be exempt. Politicians must follow the very rules which they make. If they don’t, it encourages the general populace to engage in the same behaviour. Everyone must do their part to ensure that this pandemic becomes less arduous for all of us, even leaders. 

So, if you have a loved one on the other side of the border, virtual hugs are the way to go for the time being. They may not be as great or warm as real ones, but sacrifices have to be made so we can try and get out of this pandemic sooner.

This article is part of our Opinions section and does not necessarily reflect the views of the Gauntlet’s editorial board.

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