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Village of Coutts expected to feel impact of new Canada-U.S. border restrictions due to COVID-19

Click to play video 'Small border communities fear drop in business after U.S.-Canada borders halt non-essential traffic' Small border communities fear drop in business after U.S.-Canada borders halt non-essential traffic
WATCH ABOVE: Nearly 2,000 travellers pass through the Coutts/Sweetgrass border each day. Eloise Therien spoke with locals on the Canadian side to see how the decline in traffic will impact them. – Mar 18, 2020

One of Alberta’s southernmost communities is facing uncertainty amid new border restrictions between Canada and the United States due to COVID-19.

On Wednesday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the border would be closed to all non-essential travel, including tourism and recreational trips.

Commercial traffic has not been affected by the new restrictions.

READ MORE: Canada, U.S. to temporarily close border to non-essential traffic over coronavirus

Coutts, which is home to Alberta’s largest border crossing, is used to seeing thousands of travellers pass through each week, but there is now concern it and its neighbours in Sweet Grass, Mont., could take a hit.

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“They will probably see a decrease in business as well because a lot of people who live here have mailboxes on the other side, you do some cross-border shopping,” said Coutts Mayor Jim Willett.

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The Altan Duty Free Store is the last stop in Coutts before crossing into the U.S.

Employees said they may have to reduce their hours but are hopeful the border regulations don’t force the store to close entirely.

“I think we’d like to be open for the truckers,” said staff supervisor Yvonne Graham.

“They stop and grab a coffee and grab their manifests from here because we have fax services for them.”

READ MORE: Canada’s border officers need more support from government to fight coronavirus, union says

Other small businesses in Coutts said they have noticed a drop in customers over the past couple of weeks and are worried about the possibility of having to close up shop until the border reopens to all travellers.

“People depend on this border, you know, for a lot of things. I do with my business,” said Will Harty, owner of the Double Tree Inn.

Others are cautiously optimistic business at the border can return to normal.

“We are concerned but we’re not going to let anybody think that we’re fearful and afraid. We’re just going to keep going,” said Keith Dangerfield, owner of Hills of Home Cafe.

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Coutts is located about 100 kilometres southeast of Lethbridge.