North Hampshire residents to pay ‘more for less’ as council tax set to rise


Parish councillors have once again vented their frustration at the current tip arrangement, with one saying North Hampshire residents would soon be paying “more for less”.

With Hampshire County Council facing an £80m black hole, council tax is expected to go up another 3.99 per cent for the forthcoming tax year – taking the amount paid to the county council for an average band D property up to around £1,400.

Despite this rise, North Hampshire residents continue to face either a 25-mile round trip to the household waste recycling centre in Andover or pay £7 to use the tip in Newtown Road in West Berkshire – a situation labelled “Hobson’s Choice” by Highclere Parish Council chairman Brad Norton.

The household waste recyling centre in Newtown Road.
The household waste recyling centre in Newtown Road.

At a parish council meeting last week, Mr Norton queried whether Highclere residents were essentially subsidising the rest of Hampshire residents by paying more in council tax than they received in services.

He said he had made a Freedom of Information request to councillor Rob Humby, the county council’s executive member for economy, transport and environment, on the matter but received no response.

Mr Norton said: “I look at this quite simplistically – how much do they get from Highclere residents and how much do they spend in Highclere?

“If there’s a surplus of the money they receive from the parish why can’t it go towards subsidising our trips to the HWRC?

“What’s the expenditure and what’s the income? I’d be very surprised if there’s a deficit.”

He added that with council tax set to rise again, the parish’s residents were set to pay “more for less”, and that there were many “disgruntled” residents.

The meeting was also attended by county councillor Tom Thacker (Whitchurch and the Cleres), who said there needed to be a regional or national solution which would allow residents to use whichever tip they wanted.

He said: “Hampshire County Council’s obligation is to provide a HWRC in Hampshire.

“If they wanted to do it to the minimum they could have set up a massive recycling centre in Winchester, but we’ve actually got at least 11 large ones around the county.

“The fact is we’ve lobbied Kit [Malthouse, the North West Hampshire MP] that we need to be able to have a regional or national solution which is funded, then Hampshire tax payers can travel to whichever HWRC is most convenient for them.”

Mr Norton said it wasn’t a closed matter with Highclere residents and would “rumble on and on”.

The debate came three weeks after East Woodhay parish councillors also voiced their frustration at the current arrangements, saying they felt they were paying twice to get rid of rubbish.





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Lockwood residents hopeful for quick travel connections once Billings Bypass complete


BILLINGS — On Tuesday, Lockwood resident Melinda Oedekoven said she’s excited for Billings Bypass renovations to hopefully provide quicker access from her home on Johnson Lane to her daughter’s home far north in the Billings Heights.

Whether she takes Interstate 90 or cuts through Billings, “No matter how you’re looking at it, it’s 20 minutes. Whereas I bet you this way, as the crow flies, it’s going to be seven (minutes). So that’s attractive. The thing that’s not attractive is I don’t know how much more traffic it might put on Johnson Lane,” Oedekoven said.

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MTN News / Mitch Lagge

Lockwood resident Melinda Odekoven speaks with MTN News following a Billings Bypass public meting hosted by Montana Department of Transportation.

The Johnson Lane I-90 interchange is scheduled to get an update as part of the multi-phase Billings Bypass construction project. Once complete, the construction will establish a new route, connecting Lockwood to Billings Heights via a new bridge over the Yellowstone River.

On Tuesday night, project organizers held a public meeting to update residents on construction progress. Things are moving along on schedule, but two phases got their time lines switched.

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MTN News / Mitch Lagge

People view Billings Bypass diagrams at a public meeting at the Montana Pavilion on the Metrapark Campus in Billings.

Now, work will start first on the railroad and Coulson Road overpass, followed by Johnson Lane improvements.

The switch was made, “To allow more time to interact with the public on the Johnson Lane interchange and to provide utility for the new railroad bridge segments that’s currently being constructed to Coulson Road. Such that users can use the new bypass route across the river,” said Doug Enderson, Billings Bypass project manager.

The change in schedule shouldn’t change the overall project deadline, Enderson said. The multi-phase project is expected to wrap up sometime in 2025.

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MTN News / Mitch Lagge

Doug Enderson, Billings Bypass project manager and transportation engineer at DOWL in Billings.

Once work on the overpass is complete and the roadway is connected to the new bridge, traffic can start to drive the bypass while crews finish work on the Johnson Lane improvements.

A major change to Johnson Lane will be the addition of a diverging diamond interchange around the I-90 on and off ramp area. The interchange will be the first of its kind constructed in the state.

“Traffic will actually swap over to the other side of the road to safely turn on and off the interstate,” Enderson said.

While the interchange looks complex, its designed for safety and efficiency. People may have encountered this type of roadway in Cheyenne, Wyoming

Vehicles would no longer have to cross into oncoming lanes to make a left onto the interstate. With the new interchange, there would be a dedicated path of travel for vehicles that would have had to make the more risky left turn.

Watch the video below to see an animation of the Johnson Lane diverging diamond interchange in action.

How the new diverging diamond will look at Johnson Lane in Lockwood

The interchange’s addition will make for easier maneuvering for big rig drivers, said James Balzer, sales manager for Jackson Group Peterbilt.

“Diverging diamond coming, certainly impactful for us. Getting on and off the interstate. No question, traffic backs up there regularly in and out of the area multiple times a day,” Balzer said.

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MTN News / Mitch Lagge

James Balzer, Jackson Group Peterbilt truck sales manager.

The Peterbilt shop is located north of the Johnson Lane interchange on the frontage road, in the area where crews are tentatively scheduled to start work in

The area receives a lot of truck traffic, with many businesses in the area utilizing the 18-wheelers. The area also hosts two truck stops and a truck wash located nearby the I-90 on and off ramps.

With trucks often towed to the Peterbilt repair shop, “Length is the key factor for us. We need big roads, wide roads to get those things around. I think that intersection being so predominantly trucks, it’s important that it stays truck friendly, because everything over there is trucks,” Balzer said.

The railroad overpass is expected to be complete sometime in 2022 with the Johnson Lane interchange tentatively scheduled to wrap up sometime in 2023.

To learn more about the project and its individual phases, visit the Montana Department of Transportation web site by clicking here.

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MTN News / Mitch Lagge

A view of the Johnson Lane interchange in Lockwood looking south.

RELATED: Portion of Mary Street, Five Mile Road closed for Billings Bypass construction work

RELATED: Billings and Yellowstone County plan for bypass roadway





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Residents Of Five Other Countries Can Now Enter Greece


The number of third countries whose permanent residents can enter Greece has increased from 36 countries to 41, plus EU countries and those in the Schengen Agreement.

In relation to the pre-existing airline directive, five new countries are added to the list of third-country nationals allowed to enter Greece – Argentina, India, Uruguay, Oman and Chile.

The condition of entry includes a COVID-19 test (PCR or rapid) before entering the country.

The notam for flights from abroad that will be valid until 12/11/21 provides the following:

Prohibitions on third-country nationals: The new aviation directive prohibits third-country nationals other than the EU and the Schengen Agreement, including their spouses or persons with whom they have entered into a cohabitation agreement, from entering the country. and their minor children.

This excludes passengers traveling for essential reasons and permanent residents of the following 41 countries: Australia, North Macedonia, United Arab Emirates, United States of America, United Kingdom, Israel, Canada, Belarus, New Belarus, Bahrain, Qatar, China, Kuwait, Ukraine, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, Singapore, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Albania, Japan, Lebanon, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Jordan, Moldavia, Moldova and Chinese Taipei.

What applies to the PLF: All travelers to Greece, regardless of nationality, fill in the electronic PLF form (Passenger Locator Form), any time before the departure of the flight to Greece.

The proof of completion of the PLF electronic form, which is automatically sent by e-mail to the passenger by the system, is considered a necessary travel document.

Entry into Greece with a vaccine certificate or negative PCR / RAPID TEST or disease certificate or digital certificate: For travelers to Greece, the condition for entry into the country is one of the following:

1) To have completed at least fourteen (14) days before the vaccination for COVID-19 and to present a vaccination certificate, in Greek, English, French, German, Italian, Spanish or Russian, which has been issued by a public authority.

2) To have been diagnosed negative in a laboratory test for coronavirus COVID-19 by the PCR method within the last seventy two (72) hours, or within forty eight (48) hours before their arrival in Greece for the test with rapid test .

3) Alternatively, travelers to Greece must have a certificate of illness issued thirty days after the first positive test and its validity lasts up to one hundred and eighty days after it.

4) Flight travelers from abroad may also carry, in digital or printed form, a European digital certificate COVID-19 (EU DIGITAL COVID-19 CERTIFICATE) as well as third countries, which contains information on vaccination or its effect last test (48-hour rapid test or 72-hour PCR) or coronavirus disease.

Tests on children from 12 years and over: The obligation of the conditions (vaccine or negative test or certificate of illness or digital certificate), for entry into Greece is valid for children from twelve (12) years and over.

Air directive for nationals of Argentina, India, Uruguay, Oman and Chile: Permanent residents of these third countries, in addition to all other conditions of entry into Greece provided by the foreign flight directive, must arrive at the airport with a test (PCR or rapid).

Airline instruction for Russian passengers: All travelers who are permanent residents of Russia to Greece must have a negative PCR (72 hours) or rapid test (48 hours) certificate. This measure is mandatory and applies to all passengers who are permanent residents of Russia, whether vaccinated or not. In addition, all travelers / permanent residents from Russia will be required to take a test with COVID-19 upon arrival in Greece.

READ MORE: Australia lifts international travel embargo; travel to Greece allowed.



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Australia officially allows vaccinated residents to travel outside the country


Reuters

All fully-vaccinated Australian citizens and permanent residents will be able to leave the country without a special exemption from November 1, authorities said on Wednesday, October 27, as Australia eases coronavirus restrictions amid a rise in vaccination rates.

Australians have been unable to travel abroad for more than 18 months without a government waiver, while thousands of fully-vaccinated residents living abroad have been unable to return due to a cap on arrivals to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Many of these are now expected to return after Sydney and Melbourne ended quarantine rules for inoculated travelers from Nov. 1. Other cities, mostly virus-free, are expected to ease their border rules once they reach higher vaccination rates.

“The national plan is working … (it) is about opening Australia up and that is because the vaccination rates are climbing so high,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison told Seven News on Wednesday.

Australia’s drug regulator, meanwhile, provisionally approved a booster dose of Pfizer Inc’s COVID-19 vaccine for people aged over 18, as first-dose vaccination levels in people over 16 neared 90%.

Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt said the rollout is expected to begin by Nov. 8 once the government receives advice from the country’s vaccination technical advisory group.

The decision to lift the travel ban from next week comes after Singapore on Tuesday said it would allow quarantine-free entry to travelers vaccinated against COVID-19 from Australia from November 8.

A third wave of infections fueled by the Delta variant forced lockdowns in Australia’s biggest cities, Sydney and Melbourne, and both have been gradually easing restrictions after racing through their vaccination targets.

Even with the Delta outbreaks, Australia has fared better than many comparable countries, with around 164,000 cases and 1,669 deaths. Victoria state reported 1,534 new cases on Wednesday, up from 1,510 a day earlier, while those in New South Wales rose to 304 from 282.

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Sydney Airport photo by Mark Evans/Getty Images



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Australia to lift outbound travel ban for vaccinated residents from next week


SYDNEY, Oct 27 (Reuters) – All fully-vaccinated Australian citizens and permanent residents will be able to leave the country without a special exemption from Nov. 1, authorities said on Wednesday, as Australia eases coronavirus restrictions amid a rise in vaccination rates.

Australians have been unable to travel abroad for more than 18 months without a government waiver, while thousands of fully-vaccinated residents living abroad have been unable to return due to a cap on arrivals to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Many of these are now expected to return after Sydney and Melbourne ended quarantine rules for inoculated travelers from Nov. 1. Other cities, mostly virus-free, are expected to ease their border rules once they reach higher vaccination rates.

“The national plan is working … (it) is about opening Australia up and that is because the vaccination rates are climbing so high,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison told Seven News on Wednesday.

Australia’s drug regulator, meanwhile, provisionally approved a booster dose of Pfizer Inc’s (PFE.N) COVID-19 vaccine for people aged over 18, as first-dose vaccination levels in people over 16 neared 90%.

Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt said the rollout is expected to begin by Nov. 8 once the government receives advice from the country’s vaccination technical advisory group.

The decision to lift the travel ban from next week comes after Singapore on Tuesday said it would allow quarantine-free entry to travellers vaccinated against COVID-19 from Australia from Nov. 8.

A third wave of infections fuelled by the Delta variant forced lockdowns in Australia’s biggest cities, Sydney and Melbourne, and both have been gradually easing restrictions after racing through their vaccination targets.

Even with the Delta outbreaks, Australia has fared better than many comparable countries, with around 164,000 cases and 1,669 deaths. Victoria state reported 1,534 new cases on Wednesday, up from 1,510 a day earlier, while those in New South Wales rose to 304 from 282.

Reporting by Renju Jose; Editing by Richard Pullin

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.



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A half-off airfare deal for Alaska residents arrives as Hawaii welcomes visitors once more


There’s good news from the Land of Aloha. Gov. David Ige has officially rolled out the red carpet, extending a warm welcome to tourists to once again visit Hawaii.

Back in August, Ige publicly asked tourists to stay away from the islands due to high COVID-19 infection counts and pressure on hospitals.

Alaska Airlines offers nonstop flights from Anchorage to Honolulu, Maui and Kona. And those flights are on sale. This sale is a little different from the sale last week, or the week before.

Alaskans who want to visit Hawaii must either be fully vaccinated or show a negative COVID-19 test result to avoid a 10-day quarantine on arrival.

[Hawaii governor invites vaccinated tourists to start coming back on Nov. 1]

Travel to Canada finally is a two-way street. While vaccinated travelers now are allowed to drive into Canada, Canadians were not allowed to enter the U.S. by road. That’s changing on Nov. 8, when the U.S. will allow road traffic from Canada (and Mexico).

In addition to international travel, the Canadian government is mandating that travelers be vaccinated on domestic flights and trains.

As travel slows down between Alaska and the Lower 49 (including Hawaii), airlines keep coming up with fare sales. It’s a little tough when some of the fares already are super-low. That includes routes like Anchorage to Fort Myers, Florida ($102 one-way on Delta), or New York ($116 one-way on Alaska Airlines).

Alaska Airlines has a sale right now that offers 49% off the total price of two tickets when you’re traveling together. The sale is to commemorate 10 years of their “Club 49″ program. It’s open only to Club 49 members.

It’s free to belong to Club 49, but you have to live in Alaska. The most popular feature is that members get two free checked bags when traveling to or from Alaska.

To take advantage of the 49% discount, sign in to your Alaska Airlines online account. On the left-hand side of your “account” page is a link to “discount and companion fare codes.” That’s where you’ll find the discount code. Click on the box that says “shop” and you can start shopping for tickets.

I’ve heard from several travelers who have been members of the Club 49 program since it started — and they didn’t receive a code. For a variety of reasons, some names were deleted from the Club 49 roster. All you have to do is call Alaska Airlines to be re-added to the list. Everyone I’ve spoken with either called or used the “chat” function on Alaska’s website to get re-enrolled and to receive the discount code promptly.

As is often the case, there are lots of rules and restrictions. You cannot get the discount over Thanksgiving, Christmas or spring break. Some destinations, like Hawaii and Belize, are only available on certain days.

The discount code that Alaska Air sends to you is good for two people traveling on the same itinerary, similar to the Visa card companion fares. Travel is valid between now and May 15, 2022.

Alaska’s hot new destination is Belize, so I plugged in my one-time-only code to see how much it costs. Traveling Dec. 2-9, my wife and I could fly in “Saver” seats for $740, or $370 per person.

If you’ve got Hawaii on the brain, take advantage of Gov. Ige’s offer of “aloha” as the days get shorter. Fly nonstop from Anchorage to Maui on Alaska’s nonstop. Fly Dec. 8-15 for $512 round trip, or $256 each. It’s even cheaper to fly from Anchorage to Honolulu: $430 round trip for two, or $215 each (in Saver seats).

Phoenix has the sun, but not the beach. Fly on Alaska’s nonstop from Anchorage Jan. 9-15 for a total of $350 round trip, or $175 per person.

If you want to go to Seattle, keep in mind that King County has a strict vaccination policy for many public venues. According to King County’s website, “King County will require verification of full vaccination status or a negative test to enter outdoor public events of 500 or more people and indoor entertainment and recreational establishments and events such as live music, performing arts, gyms, restaurants, and bars.”

The price for two round-trip tickets on Alaska Airlines between Anchorage and Seattle using the discount code is $228 round trip, or $114 each. Or, if you just want to travel one-way, it’s $57.

If you are counting your frequent flyer miles to get your elite MVP or MVP Gold status, Alaska Air is offering a 50% bonus through Dec. 31. If you’re traveling to Seattle (2,880 miles round trip), Alaska would award you a 1,440-mile bonus. The bonus miles can’t be redeemed for free tickets — but it does give you an extra boost to your next elite-level tier.





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Bay Area Residents, Families Rejoice as U.S. Says It Will Lift Travel Ban – NBC Bay Area


The White House said Friday it would allow international travelers who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 into the U.S. starting Nov. 8. It’s a date thousands of binational families have been eagerly waiting to hear.

Over the last several months, they even launched a social media hashtag, “love is not tourism,” to bring attention to their situation.

San Francisco resident Abbie Gould will be picking up her parents on Nov. 8 at San Francisco International Airport. It will be their first time coming to San Francisco.

It also will be the first time Gould will see them in more than a year. She even created a countdown for when they arrive at the airport.

“Yeah, I’m super excited,” she said. “We’ve got 36 days to go, so I’m definitely going to be checking it every day.”

Gould’s parents have not been allowed to visit because of COVID-19 travel restrictions.

Due to Gould’s type of visa to be in the country, she said she wouldn’t be able to return to the United States if she flew there to visit.

“Anybody who’s on a temporary visa can’t go in this situation. I’ve heard so many horror stories of people leaving the country, not being aware that they’re not going to be let back in,” she added.

Earlier this week, President Joe Biden’s administration announced that beginning Nov. 8, fully vaccinated travelers from the United Kingdom, most of the European Union, China, Brazil and India will be able to enter the U.S. without any quarantines.

The borders with Mexico and Canada will also be reopening to fully vaccinated visitors from those countries.

The nearly 21-month-long ban has been a painful one for many binational families, including Connecticut resident Rebecca Lyons. She said the recent announcement meant her new husband will finally be able to see his family for Thanksgiving. His parents missed their wedding this summer.

“We hoped that they would be able to come if we postponed it for a year. But unfortunately they couldn’t,” Lyons said.

The FDA confirmed that visitors, who have had full doses of the six approved vaccines from the World Health Organization will be allowed to enter the U.S.

That includes visitors who may have mixed and matched doses of different manufacturers.

The exact details of how airlines and border agents will verify proof of vaccination for visitors are still being worked out. Travelers also will need to show a negative COVID-19 test before flying.

The return of international visitors to the U.S. will no doubt be a boost for tourism, but it will also be a big relief for many families who have been separated for a long time.



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Border residents anxious to see relatives, shop as travel restrictions near end


U.S. business owners say rollback comes just in time for Christmas shopping season, but say they don’t expect that many Mexican shoppers

EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – Border residents let out a collective sigh of relief on Wednesday, after learning the U.S. and Mexico plan to roll back non-essential land border travel restrictions next month.

Fully COVID-19-vaccinated Mexicans will be able to come to the U.S. sometime in November. The Department of Homeland Security hasn’t specified the exact day yet. Americans with their shots can also start driving over to Mexico again, though so far few have been stopped south of the border.

The travel ban deprived downtown El Paso merchants of most of their customers from Mexico and kept families with members in Juarez separated for 19 months. Those shoppers will start trickling back soon, provided they can prove to U.S. Customs and Border Protection they are fully vaccinated. Family members will be able to see each other again as well.

“The people of Juarez are the food of Paso and vice versa,” said long-time El Paso resident Everardo Yoshida, who is fully vaccinated and was out shopping Wednesday in downtown El Paso. “We are each other’s economic well-being, but we have to take care of each other because (the pandemic) is not over.”

South El Paso merchants whose stores are within walking distance of Mexico say they lost between 50% and 90% of their clients during the pandemic. They say the rollback of restrictions comes just in time for the Christmas shopping season, although they don’t foresee their customers coming back all at once.

“November is great because you get all the shopping in November and December. Those two months are very strong for us,” said Samuel Lara, manger of a cellular telephone store on South El Paso Street.

Samuel Lara, manager of a cellular telephone store in South El Paso Street, says the end of non-essential travel restrictions comes just in time for the Christmas shopping season. (Border Report photo)

Lara said his sales went down 80% when the restrictions began in March 2020. The store has survived thanks to an increasing number of Central El Paso and Southern New Mexico residents who are keeping Downtown shops alive.

“It’s been pretty rough, not only for me but for all the businesspeople here. We’ve been waiting all year for this,” Lara said.

He and other merchants lamented the closing of many clothing, electronics, jewelry and dollar-item shops during the pandemic. The rollback of non-essential travel restrictions came too late for them, their peers said.

John, a South El Paso Street business owner who declined to give his last name, said Mexicans with valid visas and vaccination cards no doubt will cross the border to do Christmas shopping as before. But he doubts they will do so in as high a number as before.

“A lot of people’s visas expired during the pandemic and they have not renewed them,” the owner of a women’s clothing and lingerie store said. “And people in Mexico did not get stimulus checks like we did in the U.S.; they’re hurting (economically). There’s also inflation … things are going to cost more over here than the last time they came shopping.”

Elisa Baylon

Ashley Garcia, a U.S.-born resident of Juarez who is exempt from travel restrictions, said it’s been sad to see friends and acquaintances in Mexico unable to visit relatives in the United States.

“As soon as they reopen the border, people are going to come. They are anxious to see their loved ones, to shop or just get to see the other side of the border again,” she said.

Juarez resident Elisa Baylon says “the whole city” is anxious to resume its lifetime relationship with El Paso, Texas.

“We are desperate. We want to see our relatives,” Baylon said. “If they open the bridges again, yes, a lot of people will be going.”



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Border residents rejoice as US says it will lift travel ban


SAN DIEGO (AP) — Beleaguered business owners and families separated by COVID-19 restrictions rejoiced Wednesday after the U.S. said it will reopen its land borders to nonessential travel next month, ending a 19-month freeze.

Travel across land borders from Canada and Mexico has been largely restricted to workers whose jobs are deemed essential. New rules will allow fully vaccinated foreign nationals to enter the U.S. regardless of the reason starting in early November, when a similar easing of restrictions is set for air travel. By mid-January, even essential travelers seeking to enter the U.S., such as truck drivers, will need to be fully vaccinated.

Shopping malls and big box retailers in U.S. border towns whose parking spaces had been filled by cars with Mexican license plates were hit hard by travel restrictions.

San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria said the economic impact was hard to quantify but can be seen in the sparse presence of shoppers at a high-end outlet mall on the city’s border with Tijuana, Mexico. The decision comes at a critical time ahead of the holiday shopping season.

In Nogales, Arizona, travel restrictions forced about 40 retail businesses to close on the main strip in the city of 20,000 people, said Jessy Fontes, board member of the Nogales-Santa Cruz County Chamber of Commerce and owner of Mariposa Liquidation Store, which sells household appliances. His sales fell 60%, and he considered closing but instead cut his staff from seven to two.

In Del Rio, Texas, Mexican visitors account for about 65% of retail sales, said Blanca Larson, executive director of the chamber of commerce and visitors bureau in the city of 35,000 people.

“Along the border, we’re like more of one community than two different communities,” she said.

The ban has also had enormous social and cultural impact, preventing family gatherings when relatives live on different sides of the border. Community events have stalled even as cities away from U.S. borders have inched toward normalcy.

In Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, where hockey and ice skating are ingrained, the Soo Eagles haven’t had a home game against a Canadian opponent in 20 months. The players, 17 to 20 years old, have been traveling to Canada since border restrictions were lifted there two months ago. Now the U.S. team can host.

“I almost fell over when I read it,” said Ron Lavin, co-owner of the Eagles. “It’s been a long frustrating journey for people on a lot of fronts far more serious than hockey, but we’re just really pleased. It’s great for the city.”

Fully vaccinated U.S. citizens and permanent residents have been allowed into Canada since August, provided they have waited at least two weeks since getting their second vaccine dose and can show proof of a recent negative COVID-19 test. Mexico has not enforced COVID-19 entry procedures for land travelers.

The latest move follows last month’s announcement that the U.S. will end country-based travel bans for air travel and instead require vaccination for foreign nationals seeking to enter by plane.

The new rules only apply to legal entry. Those who enter illegally will still be subject to expulsion under a public health authority that allows for the swift removal of migrants before they can seek asylum.

Travelers entering the U.S. by vehicle, rail and ferry will be asked about their vaccination status as part of the standard U.S. Customs and Border Protection inspection. At officers’ discretion, travelers will have their proof of vaccination verified in a secondary screening process.

Unlike air travel, for which proof of a negative COVID-19 test is required before boarding a flight to enter the U.S., no testing will be required to enter the U.S. by land or sea, provided the travelers meet the vaccination requirement.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.S. will accept travelers who have been fully vaccinated with any of the vaccines approved for emergency use by the World Health Organization, not just those in use in the U.S. That means that the AstraZeneca vaccine, widely used in Canada, will be accepted.

Officials said the CDC was still working to formalize procedures for admitting those who received doses of two different vaccines, as was fairly common in Canada.

U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said he was “pleased to be taking steps to resume regular travel in a safe and sustainable manner” and lauded the economic benefits of it.

Mexico, Canada and elected officials from U.S. border regions have pressured the Biden administration for months to ease restrictions.

“This is a win for families who’ve been separated and businesses and tourism industries whose operations have been blocked since the start of the pandemic,” said U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire, echoing reactions of other federal, state and local officials.

Mexico President Andres Manuel López Obrador said it took “many meetings to achieve the opening of the border.” Bill Blair, Canada’s minister of public safety, called the announcement “one more step toward returning to normal.”

Cross-border traffic has plummeted since the pandemic, according to U.S. Department of Transportation figures.

The number of vehicle passengers entering the U.S. in Niagara Falls, New York — the busiest land crossing on the Canadian border — fell 83% to 1.7 million in 2020 and has remained low this year.

“Losing those customers over the last 18 months has been one of the primary reasons our hotels, restaurants and attractions have been suffering,” said Patrick Kaler, president and chief executive of Visit Buffalo Niagara, the area’s tourism agency.

At San Diego’s San Ysidro border crossing, the nation’s busiest, crossings dropped 30% last year to 18 million. Taxi drivers were largely idled Wednesday on a nearby bridge, including one who did exercises.

COVID-19 cases in the U.S. have dropped to about 85,000 per day, the lowest level since July. Per capita case rates in Canada and Mexico have been been markedly lower than the U.S. for the duration of the pandemic, which amplified frustrations about the U.S. travel restrictions.

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Miller reported from Washington. Associated Press writers Rob Gillies in Toronto; Juan A. Lozano in Houston; Wilson Ring in Montpelier, Vermont; Ed White in Detroit, Anita Snow in Phoenix, Carolyn Thompson in Buffalo, New York, Alexis Triboulard in Mexico City and Julie Watson in San Diego contributed.



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