The land border between Canada and the U.S. closed to all non-essential travel at midnight Friday in an effort to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus.
The border remains open for essential travel, which includes the transportation of goods and travel for work, in order to not hamper trade and the supply chains between the two countries.
“This is a global pandemic, so we need to act with agility and alacrity,” Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland said in a news conference Friday.
“I think people will agree: better to act with speed than to wait for the perfection, which could mean that our country’s response to this pandemic could be delayed — with truly fatal consequences.”
Freeland said that officials are taking a “negative-list approach” in deciding who can cross the border, meaning they are highlighting who shouldn’t be allowed, such as tourists or those travelling for pleasure, rather than who should.
Freeland noted that those who require crossing the border to live their daily lives, such as to shop for groceries, will not be affected.
She also said students who hold valid visas, temporary foreign workers and anyone with valid work responsibilities will be allowed to cross as well.
The decision to restrict the border was announced on Wednesday and came out of a need to follow public health advice, according to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the border restrictions will be in place for 30 days, but may change depending on the state of the pandemic. Flights between Canada and the U.S. will still continue.
The border closure will also apply to irregular migrants crossing the border by foot at informal crossings, Trudeau said Friday, due to concern over screening the migrants for COVID-19.
Cases of COVID-19 surpassed 1,000 in Canada on Friday while the U.S. is close to 20,000 total cases. There are now over 275,000 cases worldwide and have been over 10,000 deaths.
— With files from the Canadian Press, Andrew Russell and Rachael D’Amore