An agreement between Canada and the U.S. to close the border to all non-essential travel amid the coronavirus pandemic will be extended by another 30 days, the prime minister announced on Saturday.
The mutual agreement, which was put in place last month, was set to expire on April 21.
“Canada and the United States have agreed to extend by another 30 days the border measures that are currently in place,” said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau during his daily update on the country’s COVID-19 response.
“This is an important decision and one that will keep people on both sides of the border safe.”
Trudeau told reporters Thursday that both the reopening of Canada’s economy and the easing of border restrictions with U.S. were still “many weeks” away.
His statement came a day after U.S. President Donald Trump signalled that the border-crossing restrictions could be “released” soon.
“Our relationship with Canada is very good — we’ll talk about that. It will be one of the early borders to be released,” Trump said during his daily COVID-19 update.
“Canada’s doing well, we’re doing well — so we’ll see.”
Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland also tweeted in support of the extension on Saturday following Trudeau’s announcement.
“Canada and the United States have today agreed to extend by 30 days the border measures that are currently in place,” she wrote.
“This is an important decision, and one that will help keep people safe. #COVID19.”
Earlier this week, Freeland took a hardline stance in response to Trump’s comments on the border’s potential opening.
“What I can guarantee is that decisions about Canada’s border are taken by Canadians, full-stop,” the deputy prime minister said on Thursday.
“And when it comes to easing border restrictions of all kinds, our government will only do that when it is appropriate and when it is not a risk to the health and safety of Canadians.”
Freeland indicated then, however, that Canada-U.S. relations in regards to the border have been “extremely friendly, extremely neighbourly and extremely effective” so far.
The extension of the Canada-U.S. border restrictions was also followed by an announcement of $306 million to support Indigenous businesses across Canada.
“These businesses employ people right across the country, in small communities and big cities alike,” said Trudeau.
The money, which will be provided through Aboriginal financial institutions, can be used to access short-term interest free loans to help businesses rebound once the COVID-19 pandemic subsides.
The prime minister previously announced new funding on Friday for parts of the economy that were hit particularly hard by the fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic.
A total of $4.2 billion was slated across several programs for sectors like the oil and gas industry, start-up businesses and the arts.
The federal government would be providing more than $2 billion in financial support for the oil and gas industry in British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan primarily, with the funding going toward cleaning contaminated sites and meeting new federal regulations.
On Thursday, Trudeau also acknowledged the virus’ devastating trail across Canadian nursing homes, warning that the fallout of reopening the economy as of now would be “absolutely disastrous.”
Outbreaks in long-term care homes across the country have resulted in seniors being the hardest-hit group.
The prime minister said he would start considering additional supports for provinces to deal with the outbreaks, with Quebec now slated to receive 125 Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) members this weekend to help support health-care workers dealing with deaths and staff shortages from the virus.
As of April 18, confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus in Canada have risen to over 32,000, including 1,346 deaths.
More than 10,000 people have recovered.
— With files from the Canadian Press
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