Wary of Virus Spread, US and Canada to Close Border

WASHINGTON (CN) — The United States and Canada announced Wednesday they will close their shared border to nonessential travel to tamp down on the spread of the novel coronavirus that has gripped the globe.

President Donald Trump made the announcement via tweet, saying that the closure of the northern U.S. border with Canada would not impact trade.

“Details to follow!” Trump wrote.

Vehicles enter the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel to travel to Canada in Detroit on Monday. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

Coming just an hour before a previously scheduled meeting of the White House’s coronavirus task force, the move echoes maneuvers rolled out in the European Union this week where nations have begun tightening their borders and restricting nonessential travel for up to 30 days.

Some nations have also begun resurrecting border checkpoints to slow the flow of the virus.

Roughly a half hour after Trump’s Twitter announcement, Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he spoke with Trump this morning to develop a “collaborative and reciprocal” measure that would bar nonessential travel while allowing critical, essential business to continue.

“Our governments recognize it is critical we preserve supply chains between both countries,” Trudeau said at a press conference. “They ensure food, fuel and lifesaving medicines reach people on both sides of the border.”

Trudeau emphasized that the border restrictions will not affect Canadian citizens who do “essential work.”

“In both of our countries, we’re telling our people to stay home,” the Canadian prime minister said. “This … is an extension of that approach.”

While the coronavirus disrupts life as usual, Trump stressed repeatedly this week during briefings that trade between the United States, Mexico and Canada would stay strong.

The U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, or USMCA, was ratified by Mexico last June, by the U.S. Congress in January and by Canada, formally, last week. The final push by Canada to ratify was expedited after the nation announced it would shutter its parliament for five weeks to mitigate COVID-19’s spread.

As Trump tweeted the announcement Wednesday morning, Republican lawmaker Chuck Grassley of Iowa, spoke from the floor of the Senate and urged the administration to enter the USMCA into force as planned by May 1.

Concerned over ripple effects border closures and the virus might have on the automotive trade between the three nations, Grassley urged the White House to move ahead as planned.

“It would be prudent right now to let these [automotive] companies instead focus on the health of their workforce and supply chains,” Grassley said.

The Department of Homeland Security is also expected to announce a plan sometime this week on how emergency measures will unfold at the U.S. border with Mexico. In Mexico, as of Monday, at least 82 cases of COVID-19 were reported. Because of limited testing, however, the actual number of infections may be considerably higher.

Mexico’s health ministry unveiled more aggressive social distancing measures on Tuesday, including the expansion of the nation’s Easter break for school children from two weeks to a month beginning Friday.

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