Gananoque area takes extended U.S. border closure in stride

·3 min read

In the Gananoque area, there is some frustration but little surprise at the United States's decision to keep its border closed.

The United States extended its border restrictions for non-essential travel at land and ferry border crossings on Friday.

The U.S border will remain closed to non-essential travel until at least Sept. 21. The extension of the closure is meant to minimize the spread of COVID-19 and the Delta variant.

The restrictions for non-essential travel between borders were supposed to be lifted on Saturday, however the U.S. does still allow for travellers to fly across the border for non-essential travels.

"It certainly has a big impact in that it takes away half of our customer base," said Jeff Butler, owner of the Thousand Islands Duty Free store, noting half of the customer base is Canadian residents who are unable to travel into the U.S.

Typically, pre-pandemic, the Thousand Islands Duty Free store's customers would vary throughout the months. Usually they would see half of their American customers in the summer months, and more than half in the colder months were Canadian travellers.

Butler said he wasn't surprised after learning about the extension of the border restrictions.

"We weren't shocked that it wouldn't open, but we were certainly hopeful that it would."

Currently Canada allows U.S. citizens and permanent residents into the province, since Ottawa eased restrictions for non-essential travel on Aug. 9, provided people are fully vaccinated.

In the first 16 months of the pandemic the duty free store business was down about 95 per cent. Since the reopening it has seen a slight bump in traffic, but it was too soon to tell how the new changes will affect the business.

Eligible visitors to Canada must live in the U.S., are required to show proof of a negative molecular test for COVID-19, and must have received a full course of a Health-Canada-approved vaccine, 14 days before travelling across the border.

The COVID case counts in the U.S. are up, so there is certainly a lot of concern about preventing further transmission coming into the country, said Butler.

"It's a little bit frustrating," said Bill Stewart, interim director of the 1000 Islands Gananoque Chamber of Commerce.

"There are also a lot of people here who have cottages down there and they're not able to go down there and enjoy it again this summer," he added.

"The financial impact of tourism on the border communities is substantial,” said Stewart.

He said there is a mutually beneficial setup between the U.S and Canada, as a lot of the local residents travel to the U.S., and have enjoyed the attractions and things to do there as well, but now are unable to until the restrictions ease.

Stewart said he hopes the restrictions will ease, but he understands public health measures and knows they have to be followed.

"We'd like to see the border open up as soon as it can but we have no influence on that," said Butler.

Jessica Munro, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Brockville Recorder and Times

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