TORONTO -- A map showing the startling contrast between Canada and the United States in the fight against COVID-19 has an infectious disease expert "terrified" at the thought of reopening the border.

As Canadian COVID-19 trends continue to decline, cases in the United States propel upwards. The Canada-U.S. border remains closed until July 21 but reopening it to non-essential travel anytime soon would likely lead to a resurgence in cases, infectious disease specialist Dr. Abdu Sharkawy said.

"It absolutely terrifies me to think of the prospect of any sort of easing of restrictions that could allow greater travel between Canada and the United States," he said, adding that the United States could hit 100,000 new infections per day sometime in the next week. 

"These numbers are just unfathomable and astronomical when you consider what we have dealt with here in Canada over the course of three or four months."

He said that maps tracking COVID-19 infections worldwide, like the one pictured above from Johns Hopkins University, paints a picture of how a country can successfully or unsuccessfully manage a pandemic. 

While the data on the map above is on a more localized level in the United States, which makes it appear more red, there are still an overwhemling number of cases south of the border compared to Canada. 

For example, a single red dot in New York City or Los Angeles accounts for more cases than in all of Canada. 

"I don't think we have seen any another part of the world where you have two neighbouring countries in polar opposite situations in terms of pandemic control," Sharkawy said. "This is a very strange phenomena where you are seeing such an extreme range."

To date, there have been 2,796 COVID-19 cases per million people in Canada, while in the United States that number is much higher at 9,051 per million. 

The United States is leading the world in COVID-19 cases as it nears the three million mark, while Canada has just over 106,000. 

"I think if you look around the world at other countries that have successfully flattened the curve, a lot of resurgent cases have been a direct result of travel restrictions being eased," Sharkawy said. 

"Border control and travel restrictions are a very key element in keeping your particular geographical area safe."

"It's the longest undefended border in the world and the last thing we want to do is turn it into the longest unprotected border when it comes to COVID-19 transmission."

Ontario Premier Doug Ford said in June that he believes reopening the borders  too early could spark a second wave of COVID-19. 

"I know it's inevitable … I just don't think we are ready right now," Ford said. "You see what's happening down in the states; you look at Florida, you look at Texas, Arizona, California. I don't want to be those states. I want to protect the people here in Ontario."

"Believe me, I love the Americans, make no mistake about it, but not when their COVID cases are just spiking right now and I’m just not in favour."


Since March, everyone entering Canada for non-essential reasons has been ordered to quarantine for two weeks. The order was extended until the end of August but could be pushed even further. 

Travelling within Canada 'reasonable'

While Sharkawy said he wouldn't road trip across Canada right now, he said beginning to plan travel again within the country "makes sense."

"I think it's very reasonable to explore interprovincial travel," Sharkawy said. 

"Again, I wouldn't do it for the sake of doing it but if someone wanted to visit friends or family and its likely to bring them a great deal of comfort and satisfaction then I think the benefit of that outweighs the theoretical risk of acquiring COVID-19."