US-Canada border closed to ‘non-essential traffic’
OTTAWA – Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Thursday that he expected the closure of the United States-Canada border to take effect overnight on Friday and was working with domestic carriers to bring home citizens stranded overseas.
Canada, which closed its borders this week to most foreign nationals, agreed with the United States to close their shared border to “non-essential traffic” to curb transmission of the novel coronavirus.
Canada has more than 800 cases of the COVID-19 respiratory illness caused by the coronavirus, and 12 deaths. Some 55 000 people have been tested across the country, Chief Medical Officer Theresa Tam said.
“What continues to concern us is the day-by-day sharp increase in cases and reports from provinces of new cases with no links to travel,” Tam told reporters.
Globally, there are over 236 000 infections and more than 9 700 deaths.
Canadian Foreign Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne, 49, went into self-isolation after showing “new, flu-like symptoms” and was awaiting test results.
Canada’s indigenous communities, already facing poor healthcare options, are closing their own lands’ borders to limit coronavirus exposure.
The Canadian government said this week it would provide C$27 billion (US$18.6 billion) in direct support to families and businesses affected by the virus. Quebec said on Thursday it would make C$2.5 billion available to businesses in loans and loan guarantees.
Ottawa was also examining invoking the rarely used 1988 Emergencies Act, which would allow Ottawa to override provinces and restrict the movement of people and goods.
Trudeau said on Thursday he may utilise the military to help with procurement of supplies and urged Canadians to keep practicing social distancing.
“These are difficult and extraordinary times in which Canadians are taking difficult and extraordinary measures,” Trudeau told reporters outside his house, where he is in self-isolation after his wife tested positive for the coronavirus.
Many of the more than three million Canadians based overseas want to return home, officials said, and some need government help as commercial flights become limited.
Air Canada said on Thursday it was holding talks with Ottawa to operate charter flights from international destinations to return stranded Canadians.
The carrier plans to suspend most international and US transborder flights by March 31 because of travel restrictions.
The prime minister urged Canadians to donate blood, after the agency responsible for the country’s blood system said it had seen a spike in canceled appointments.