Canada and the United States have agreed to once again extend the closure of their shared border to non-essential travel for another 30 days amid the ongoing novel coronavirus pandemic, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced on Tuesday.
The confirmation comes after some news outlets reported earlier this month that officials were discussing an extension to the current measures until June 21, citing Canadian government and U.S. sources.
The land border has remained open for “essential” travel, including the transportation of goods and travel for work purposes.
Asked by a journalist on Tuesday whether the provinces pressured the federal government to keep the partial shutdown in place for a longer period of time, Trudeau confirmed in French that provincial officials wanted it extended and said U.S. officials were “fully agreeable” to doing so.
“We had lengthy discussions with the provinces over the last few weeks and they clearly desired that we maintain the current measures at the border,” Trudeau said in French.
“The border is a vulnerable point in terms of the possibility of (COVID-19) cases coming in from the outside.”
The premiers of Canada’s two most populous provinces were onside to keep the current Canada-U.S. border restrictions going.
Quebec’s premier on Tuesday said he was “happy” they’ve been extended another month and called for them to last further into the summer.
“I would like that we go another month after in July until we really have control,” Premier François Legault told reporters.
Ontario’s premier, for his part, said during a news conference last week that he wanted the cross-border restrictions maintained for now.
“I made it very clear on the call with the premiers and the prime minister — we need it closed,” Premier Doug Ford said last week. “That excludes the trade back and forth, that’s still moving … that’s critical.
“I always say we love our American neighbours to the south, but right now we’re going to have to keep the borders closed, especially just for visits and that. We just can’t risk it.”
Officials and stakeholders on both sides of the border have hailed the agreement as a successful measure in curbing the spread of COVID-19 while ensuring vital supply chains remain intact.
The U.S. is currently home to more than 1.5 million active cases of COVID-19, 42 per cent of the world’s active caseload, and a death toll that crossed the 90,000 threshold over the weekend, growing at a rate of more than 1,000 fatalities a day.
Canada, as of late Tuesday morning, has reported a total of 78,489 COVID-19 cases across the country and 5,858 deaths linked to the virus.
Asked when Canada will reopen its borders to international travel and if he anticipates the Canada-U.S. border restrictions will be maintained beyond June 21, the prime minister said the government is making decisions in its response to the pandemic “week to week.”
“The situation is changing rapidly and we’re adjusting constantly to what is the right measures for Canadians, to get that balance right between keeping people safe and restoring a semblance of normality and economic activity that we all rely on,” he said.
Trudeau argued it was “the right thing” to further extend the land border restrictions and said the federal government “will continue to watch carefully what’s happening elsewhere in the world and around us as we make decisions on next steps.”
—With files from the Canadian Press