The U.S.-Canada Border Is Closing to Many People Because of the Coronavirus Pandemic
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President Donald Trump announced Wednesday morning that his administration had agreed with the Canadian government to close the countries’ mutual border to most people — except trade — because of the novel coronavirus pandemic.
“We will be, by mutual consent, temporarily closing our Northern Border with Canada to non-essential traffic,” he tweeted. “Trade will not be affected. Details to follow!”
Citing sources, the CBC reported on Tuesday night that the still-evolving agreement “would close the border to tourists and shoppers while still allowing Canadians to return home. The final deal is expected to allow some commercial traffic to continue to keep critical supply chains intact.”
According to CNN, which first reported the pending border closure, the deal was likely to be announced via joint statement, but Trump scuttled that plan himself with a tweet.
“Some of the ongoing discussions involve what types of vehicles and individuals would still be allowed to travel between the two countries and for what purpose,” according to CNN, citing an official.
The network reported that “the restrictions will likely allow for significant flexibility.”
“The Canadians have been our friends throughout this and many other crises, and they continue to be honest brokers,” the official told CNN.
(U.S. border officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment from PEOPLE.)
The latest travel restrictions come as governments around the world escalate their response to the new coronavirus, which first emerged in China late last year and which causes the deadly respiratory disease COVID-19.
While most people who are infected are not at serious risk, a fraction of them will develop severe symptoms and complications. People over 60 and people with underlying health conditions are most vulnerable.
Health officials have repeatedly urged people to practice “social distancing” to slow the spread of the virus and prevent the health care system from being overwhelmed while researchers develop treatments and a vaccine.
Numerous companies have told their employees to work from home, schools have shifted to online-only classes and events and large gatherings have been canceled or postponed.
Earlier this week, Canada’s prime minister, Justin Trudeau, announced that the country would only accept its citizens, permanent residents and some narrow excepted groups (such as airplane crews and diplomats) in an “exceptional step” to slow the virus.
He said then that, for the time being, Americans would also be allowed into the country — a reflection of America’s historically close relationship with Canada in trade, culture and international affairs.
Last week, Trudeau’s wife tested positive for coronavirus after a trip to the U.K.
As of Wednesday morning, there were about 5,900 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the U.S. and 107 deaths. In Canada, there were about 600 confirmed cases and eight deaths.
Worldwide, there were about 204,000 confirmed cases and 8,200 deaths.
To prevent the spread of the virus, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention encourages maintaining basic forms of hygiene including careful hand washing, avoiding touching the face, moving away from people who are coughing or sneezing and staying home at signs of illness.