The United States announced Wednesday that it will reopen its land borders with Canada and Mexico for fully vaccinated travelers beginning next month.
The borders have been shut down at all automobile, train and ferry crossings since March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, with the exception of essential travel such as trade.
The lifting of restrictions for non-essential travelers at the land borders comes just weeks after the administration of President Joe Biden announced it would allow fully vaccinated foreign citizens to fly into the country beginning next month. An exact date for the new rules has not been set, but officials said they would be in effect in early November.
Administration officials told reporters that people seeking to enter the United States illegally would continue to be subject to the so-called Title 42 order put in place by former President Donald Trump that prevents many border crossers from seeking asylum.
The Biden administration has been under pressure from U.S. lawmakers, as well as Canada and Mexico, to lift the restrictions, which they say has cut off families and deprived the United States of billions of dollars of tourism dollars.
In a related matter, the Indonesian resort island of Bali is preparing to welcome international travelers from several countries back to its renowned beaches on Thursday after being closed for more than a year due to the pandemic. Visitors from China, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea and the United Arab Emirates will have to show proof of being fully vaccinated, undergo testing upon arrival and quarantine in their hotel rooms for at least five days.
The World Health Organization released Wednesday a proposed team of experts to investigate the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic that has sickened nearly 239 million people around the globe, including nearly 4.9 million deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center.
The proposed team of experts, known as the Scientific Advisory Group for the Origins of Novel Pathogens, includes specialists in fields like laboratory safety and biosecurity, a nod towards speculation among Western governments pressing for consideration of whether the virus emerged from a laboratory in the central Chinese city of Wuhan, where it was first detected in late 2019.
A team of investigators dispatched to Wuhan earlier this year concluded the outbreak likely began as an animal-to-human transmission, but the report was criticized by many as incomplete, mainly due to the Chinese government’s refusal to cooperate with the investigation. In July, a senior Chinese health official rebuffed WHO’s future plan to study the origins of COVID-19.
The U.S. intelligence community was ordered by Biden to come up with its own determination of the origins of the pandemic, but reportedly told the president it could not reach a definitive conclusion.
The nation’s top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, acknowledged Wednesday the coronavirus may never be eliminated and that "much of the world" remains in the pandemic phase of the outbreak.
Fauci, the Infectious Diseases Director at the National Institutes of Health and Infectious Diseases, made the assessment during a regular White House briefing on the pandemic.
"It is going to be very difficult, at least in the foreseeable future and maybe ever, to truly eliminate this highly transmissible virus," he said.
To put the battle against the coronavirus in perspective, Fauci said "There’s been only one disease that’s a human disease that’s been eradicated and that is smallpox."
He said "much of the world" is still "in some aspects in the pandemic phase of the outbreak" but is "now seeing now a decline in acceleration" of new cases.
The U.S. continues to lead the world in coronavirus deaths, with more than 717,000, and in new infections, with nearly 44.6 million, according to the Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Center.
Some information for this report came from The Associated Press and Reuters.