WASHINGTON – The Canadian border will close to nonessential travel at 11:59 p.m. Friday and will remain closed until the same time on April 20 due to the coronavirus crisis, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security announced.
"U.S. and Canadian officials have mutually determined that nonessential travel between the United States and Canada poses additional risk of transmission and spread of Covid-19 and places the populace of both nations at increased risk of contracting Covid-19," Chad R. Mizelle, acting general counsel at DHS, said in an announcement in the Federal Register Friday morning.
Mizelle said the U.S. and Canada had also decided on a definition of nonessential travel: "Individuals traveling for tourism purposes (e.g., sightseeing, recreation, gambling, or attending cultural events)."
That leaves a lot of people still eligible to cross the border to return to America, including:
• U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents.
• People traveling for medical purposes, or involved in emergency response or public health.
• Those traveling to educational institutions.
• Those traveling for work.
• Truck drivers and others involved in cross-border trade.
• People traveling on government business, including members of the U.S. Armed Forces and their families.
Those restrictions are important for an obvious reason, Mizelle wrote.
"Given the outbreak and continued transmission and spread of Covid-19 within the United States and globally, I have determined that the risk of continued transmission and spread of Covid-19 between the United States and Canada poses a 'specific threat to human life or
national interests'," he wrote.
Nonessential travel would increase the risks that the coronovirus will spread, he said.
"Moreover, given the sustained human-to-human transmission of the virus, maintaining the current level of travel between the two nations places the personnel staffing land ports of entry between the United States and Canada, as well as the individuals traveling through these ports of entry, at increased risk of exposure to Covid-19," Mizelle wrote.
At the same time, the new regulations aim to ensure that business will be minimally affected.
"This temporary alteration in land ports of entry operations should not interrupt legitimate trade between the two nations or disrupt critical supply chains that ensure food, fuel, medicine, and other critical materials reach individuals on both sides of the border," Mizelle wrote.
Ron Rienas, general manager of the Peace Bridge, said the new policy will likely cut passenger traffic across the bridge by 95%.
President Trump and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau agreed on Wednesday morning that the border should be closed to nonessential travel.
"We don't want people coming into contact because that's the way we're going to win this war" against the coronavirus, Trump said at a news briefing in Washington. "That is so important."