After more than 20 months, U.S. land borders with Canada and Mexico have reopened to those vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security reopened ports of entry to World Health Organization vaccinated travelers to and from Canada and Mexico, last week. The border was closed for non-essential travel in March 2020, cutting off anyone who wanted to visit family or go shopping in Mexico. 

“Cross-border travel creates significant economic activity in our border communities and benefits our broader economy,” U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said in a statement. “We are pleased to be taking steps to resume regular travel in a safe and sustainable manner.”

Almost a million people crossed the border each day before the coronavirus pandemic started. El Campo resident Elizabeth Sandoval went to the border multiple times a year before it closed almost two years ago.

“We would visit my aunt and cousins at least four times a year before the pandemic,” Sandoval said. “It has been hard not seeing my family and going through all this without each other.”

Sandoval, like many Mexican-Americans with ties to the southern border, used to make trips to see people or even to go shopping.

“My grandfather used to take us to buy candy and toys from the market all the time,” Sandoval said. “I still carry that memory with me, and every time I go shopping there, I am reminded of my childhood.”

The closure dealt a setback to businesses on both sides of the border. In Texas border counties, the loss of shoppers and visitors caused more than $4.9 billion in lost GDP last year, a report by the Baker Institute calculated.

The DHS will also require commercial drivers, health care workers, and students, to start showing proof of vaccination beginning in January.

The Mexican border is the world’s busiest land border. 

“The opening of the northern border has been achieved, we are going to have normality,” Mexico President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said in a news conference.

The only major obstacle in the way for Mexicans is the WHO’s requirement to get a approved vaccinated. These vaccines do not include those made in Russia and China.

“The WHO must act correctly, without political or ideological tendencies, sticking to the science,” Mexico President Lopez Obrador said.

Although the border has been open since last week, Sandoval still worries they will close it again.

“I hope everyone can get vaccinated because we are not out of this yet,” Sandoval said. “ I want my grandkids to experience the same things I did as a kid and to get to know their family from Mexico.”

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