WASHINGTON – Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, in a pre-recorded interview with NBC's "Meet the Press" that will air Sunday, offered Canadians and Americans no hope that the border between the two countries will reopen anytime soon.
"We'll continue to engage with the White House and with the administration on the best times to start releasing border measures," said Trudeau, according to a transcript of the interview that NBC released Saturday. "But for now, we all need to keep safe, and that means keeping (the border restrictions) in place."
Trudeau's comments came in the 12th month of the border closure, which restricts crossings to essential commercial, medical- and education-related travel. The U.S. and Canada largely shut land borders between the two countries last March 21 in order to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Now, even though there are signs that the Covid-19 pandemic is easing, Trudeau told NBC's Chuck Todd that concerns about new variants of the virus present a reason to keep the border largely shut.
"Our public health experts telling us what the right measures are and how concerned we have to be about variants," Trudeau said.
Asked what metrics Canada will look at to determine when the border will reopen, Trudeau said: "I think there's an awful lot of different metrics we need to look at on (the) border and on keeping Canadians safe from Covid-19. Obviously case counts, presence of variants, hospitalizations – all these things factor into the expert analysis."
Vaccination rates could also play a role in the decision to start easing border restrictions, he said.
"Obviously as vaccinations increase, we’re all hoping for good news and to get through this," Trudeau said.
Trudeau's comments came as no surprise, given he and President Biden held a virtual summit last week that produced no progress on reopening the border despite an increasingly friendly tone in relations between Canada and the U.S.
The prime minister also reflected on those improved U.S.-Canadian relations in the interview.
"It's great to see America re-engage," he said. "I think certainly there were things that were more challenging under the previous administration in terms of moving the dial in the right direction on the international stage."
The summit was the third time Biden and Trudeau have spoken since Biden's Jan. 20 inauguration. Trudeau long had a difficult relationship with Biden's predecessor, former President Donald Trump, who imposed tariffs on Canadian steel and aluminum and otherwise criticized the trade practices of America's largest trading partner.