US v Canada: photos of Niagara Falls boats show different approaches to pandemic

The Canadian boat company Hornblower Niagara Cruises had been allowing only 6 passengers until recently, while the US’s Maid of the Mist had 250 people at a time

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The world-famous Niagara Falls straddles the United States and Canada, with its water falling on both the Ontario and New York sides of the border.

Pictures of boat tours by both American and Canadian operators highlight a difference in the handling of the Covid-19 crisis in the two countries.

Canada’s main boat tour company Hornblower Niagara Cruises, which usually can carry up to 700 people, can currently take only six passengers at a time because of Ontario’s strict social distancing guidelines.

In contrast, US-owned Maid of the Mist, which normally allows 500 people, is operating at 50 per cent capacity, so 250 people can be on board.

This means that although the two boats were photographed gliding next to each other, they painted very different pictures.

However, on Friday, July 24, regions in Ontario entered stage three of their opening, which allows more businesses and public spaces to reopen. According to these new regulations, the Hornblower will now be able to allow up to 100 people on board at a time, but that is still only only 14 per cent of its capacity.

“The visuals are pretty ridiculous. You’ve got this giant vessel with six people on it but that’s what’s permitted,” said Hornblower Niagara Cruises vice president Mory DiMaurizio when only six people were allowed. “Of course, when we look across the way at our competitor, we would love to have the ability to carry 30 per cent or 50 per cent but to do so in a safe way is equally important, or even more important.”

The US has been very badly hit by the coronavirus pandemic, registering 4,178,021 cases at time of publishing. Canada, meanwhile, had 115,470 registered cases. This means that, at the time of publishing, the US had around quadruple the registered cases per capita as Canada.

Canada shut its international borders in early March to everyone apart from the US and Canadian citizens, and on March 17 schools, bars, restaurants and large social gatherings were shut. America took similar shutdown action across states between March 19 and April 3 (Georgia was the last state to do so). Critically, in mid-March the Canadian testing rate was nearly five times higher than that of the US according to Vox.

The American operator Maid of the Mist boat tours opened to the public on June 26. According to its website, it has incorporated safety regulations like placing markers to remind people to socially distance, making face coverings and health screenings necessary and installing hand sanitiser stations.