OTTAWA – All non-essential traffic will now be turned away at the Canada-U.S. border starting at midnight eastern time on Saturday.
It’s unclear how long the closure will last, but it’s being done in an effort to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus, which has infected hundreds of people across Canada and thousands in the U.S.
“As I announced Wednesday, Canada and the United States have agreed to stop non-essential travel, specifically for recreation and tourism,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Friday. “Trade and commerce will continue.”
Prime Minister @JustinTrudeau announces the Canada US border will close at midnight. There is also an arrangement that irregular border crossers will be turned away and sent back to the country they were coming from #Cdnpoli
— Cormac Mac Sweeney (@cmaconthehill) March 20, 2020
The Canada-U.S. border is the longest international border in the world between two countries. It’s estimated nearly 200,000 people usually cross it ever day.
Truck drivers, Canadians and Americans who cross the border for essential work or other “urgent” reasons, as well as some others will be exempt from the closure.
On Friday, Trudeau also announced irregular migrants would be turned away by officials on both sides of the border as part of a “reciprocal arrangement.”
“Who attempt to cross anywhere at the Canada-U.S. border,” he said.
#BREAKING Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says Canada & U.S. have agreed to send irregular border crossers/migrants back to each other if they cross from one country to the other. #COVID19 #CoronavirusPandemic
— Martin MacMahon (@martinmacmahon) March 20, 2020
Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness said decisions to restrict travel have not been taken lightly.
“We know that this has been challenging for Canadians, but we believe that it is part of a larger group of measures as advised and directed by our public health officials that are important to keep Canadians safe,” Blair said Friday. “In response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, we took the steps necessary to restrict international air travel for non-Canadians, we have entered into an agreement with our most important ally — the United States — a reciprocal agreement to temporarily restrict all non-essential travel across the Canada-U.S. border.”
Blair said there’s been a “significant decline” in non-essential travel over the border over the last day or so.
On the subject of returning irregular migrants, Blair noted there will be “necessary and limited exceptions” put in place.
“We are taking this measure to maintain safety and order at our border. At the same time, these measures will only be in place temporarily, as long as the agreement of the restrictions on non-essential remain in place,” he said.
Meanwhile, other measures were also outline by the federal government on Friday as part of its plan to tackle COVID-19.
It includes working with some businesses to convert and produce medical equipment.
-500k Cdns have applied for EI this week.
-Border with US will shutdown at midnight.
-Some factories will convert and produce medical equip.
-More than 800 COVID-19 cases in Canada.
KEEP SOCIAL DISTANCING!!
— Amanda Wawryk (@AmandaWawryk) March 20, 2020
“This week, many businesses put their hand up and asked us what they can do,” Trudeau said. “So today, we’re announcing a new strategy that will make it easier for companies to help out during this critical time. We are launching Canada’s plan to mobilize industry to fight COVID-19 to ensure that we can quickly produce, here in Canada, the things we need.”
He said this measure will help those who are already making products like masks and hand sanitizer to increase production.
Canada has recorded more than 900 cases of COVID-19 since the outbreak began. It’s blamed for 12 deaths in the country.