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Collins cheers Canadian reopening bid

Collins said New Brunswick’s reopening plan is a welcome “light at the end of the tunnel for many Maine families and small businesses.”
Credit: AP
In this photo taken Sunday, May 17, 2020, a truck from Canada heads to the single open lane heading into the U.S. at the Peace Arch border crossing in Blaine, Wash.(AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

CALAIS, Maine — Sen. Susan Collins said the Canadian province of New Brunswick’s move toward reopening its border with Maine this summer is good news for both countries.

Maine has more than 600 miles of border with New Brunswick and Quebec. The government of New Brunswick recently unveiled a plan to allow travel between the province and Maine starting July 1 as long as 75% of New Brunswick residents age 12 and older have received their first dose of a vaccine.

“We’re all eager to get back to normal, but we know that before we get back to normal, cases need to be under control and over 75% of people need to be vaccinated,” Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in a news conference broadcast on Canada's Cable Public Affairs Channel (CPAC).

In a statement on Friday, Collins, a Republican, said the closed border “has taken a severe toll on the many Mainers who have been unable to visit Canadian relatives and small businesses that have lost Canadian customers.” She said New Brunswick’s reopening plan is a welcome “light at the end of the tunnel for many Maine families and small businesses.”

According to the Associated Press, about a fifth of New Brunswick residents age 65 and older have received their second dose of the vaccine. However, hospitalizations in the province have been low. 

Maine has recorded under 100 new daily COVID-19 cases the past four days in a row, according to data from the Maine CDC.

“We know that there are still real concerns around transmission of the virus, but we will continue to work with our partners and hopefully get to a better place when the time is appropriate," Trudeau said.

The U.S.-Canada border has been closed since March 2020, and was recently extended another 30 days through June 21, 2021.

RELATED: What will it take to reopen the U.S.-Canada border? More people vaccinated, says Trudeau

In March, Collins urged the Biden administration to reevaluate the ongoing travel restrictions between the U.S. and Canada, saying the border closure has created significant disruptions for people and businesses, despite the often lower localized risk for COVID-19 transmission in rural border areas.

In a letter dated Feb. 16, Collins wrote to Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas addressing her concerns over keeping the border closed to non-essential travel.

“Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, strict travel restrictions at land ports of entry between the United States and Canada have been in effect for nearly one calendar year,” Collins wrote.

Collins said, "these restrictions should reflect the localized risk levels along our border, and allow for certain common-sense exceptions, such as visits among close relatives or day-to-day local commerce in low-COVID-19 transmission areas."

In her letter, Collins included previous letters she wrote to former President Donald Trump and former Acting Secretary Chad Wolf advocating for limited border crossing exemptions based on localized risks.