EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – The U.S. and Mexico will keep non-essential border travel restrictions in place for another month, Foreign Secretary Marcelo Ebrard said Tuesday.

However, the two countries are holding talks to bring about a prompt reopening, given the economic strain the restrictions have put on merchants on both sides of the border, he said.

“We are holding talks with the Department of Homeland Security, with (Alejandro) Mayorkas and (U.S. Customs and Border Protection). They made the decision to prolong restrictions because they have not fully immunized border cities” against COVID-19, Ebrard said Tuesday morning. “They are close to doing that (but) their criteria is not to do it (lift border travel restrictions) until they finish vaccination.”

Ebrard said Mexico would like to see the economy of border cities in both countries back to normal.

“We are on our way to getting the situation back to normal. Vaccination rates would suggest taking away the restrictions very soon. […] I don’t know the exact date. We have said we would like to see that before the summer,” Ebrard said.

Later Tuesday morning, his office tweeted binational talks are proceeding to “relax border crossing restrictions beginning on June 22,” taking into account COVID-19 infection rates and the number of vaccines applied in border cities on either side.

As of Monday evening, Mexico had applied 15.7 million vaccines to 19 percent of its adult population – almost doubling the rate from last month. The United States has administered 274 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines, with 124 million Americans or 37.7 percent of the population fully vaccinated.

In El Paso, Mayor Oscar Leeser and County Judge Ricardo Samaniego highlighted their community’s successes when it comes to COVID-19 vaccinations. As of Tuesday, 53.5 percent of the population was fully vaccinated and 68.8 percent of those 16 and over had received at least one shot.

El Paso County Judge Ricardo Samaniego

El Paso merchants who have been severely affected by the lack of Mexican clients have told Border Report they’d like to see the border reopen as soon as possible. The county judge agrees that El Paso won’t be back to normal until full economic and social ties are restored with Juarez and the state of Chihuahua. But he said that will only happen if Juarez can manage the pandemic.

“We want our neighbors to the south to be coming here as soon as possible. When we talk about normalcy, we can’t be normal until we have a relationship between Juarez and Chihuahua the way we had it before,” Samaniego said. “The elephant in the room is that we’re not peer ready until Juarez is ready and we’re able to work together as a community. … The minute the bridges are open I would like for them to feel they’re coming into a community where we’re wearing masks and they’re wearing masks, too, because it’ll start all over again if we’re not careful.”

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