As the US surpassed the grim milestone of four million coronavirus cases, alarming photos from one of the world’s most recognised tourist attractions highlights the virus-hit nation’s plight and how neighbouring Canada is managing to slow the spread of COVID-19.
A photo of two tourist ferries at Niagara Falls on the US-Canada border shows the drastically different approaches the two countries are taking amid the pandemic.
One US vessel can be seen ferrying dozens of passengers with little social distancing, while a Canadian boat just metres away merely has a handful of tourists onboard.
Although cases of COVID-19 continue to rise across the United States, neighbouring Canada has largely managed to contain the spread of the virus and is recording stabilised numbers of several hundred a day.
The nation’s position has been helped by strict social distancing measures and mandatory masks in several jurisdictions – clearly evident on board its tours at the famous waterfalls.
Canadian ferries are limited to just six passengers per boat, out of a 700 person capacity. But on the US side, the ferries are operating at 50 per cent capacity, according to Maid of the Mist boat tours.
"We actually took a picture of the (American) boat," said Julie Pronovost, visiting from Quebec with her family on Tuesday.
"I don't find that it's very safe to be on a boat like that. It's much better here."
US tours ‘frustrate’ operators
Maid of the Mist could not immediately be reached for comment but its website said it was following the guidance of New York State public health officials.
The boats contain markers to keep visitors spaced out, and face coverings are compulsory, among other safety changes, it said.
Mory DiMaurizio, general manager and vice president of Canada's Hornblower Niagara Cruises, said the limits placed on its business by the Ontario provincial government were "disappointing" and that it was "frustrating" to see the American boats relatively full.
"However we've made lemonade out of lemons," DiMaurizio said, referring to a new VIP cruise the company has created – a near-empty boat, plus a meal and funicular ride included with the ticket.
Health precautions include temperature checks and mandatory masks.
The popularity of the CAD$69.95 ($73) per person cruise has "actually surprised us," DiMaurizio said.
Provisional daily infections figures for the US were in the vicinity of 71,000 as of Wednesday (local time), compared with about 500 in Canada.
Since the outbreak began, the United States has reported around 118 coronavirus cases per 10,000 residents, while Canada has around 30.
Canadian authorities are dealing with both unwanted tourists slipping though the border and permitted travellers - including essential workers, those en route to Alaska, and families reuniting - who break the strict quarantine laws, causing concerns about possible outbreaks in several provinces.
Tourists at the falls on Tuesday said they felt much safer with the six person per boat limit.
"I'm glad I'm in Canada," said Amanda Barnes of Brampton, Ontario.
"You can see why the pandemic is raging in the United States and not in Canada when you look at the difference between the boats."
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