The US border with Canada border is expected to remain closed until at least August 21, two Canadian government sources with knowledge of the situation tell CNN, extending the ban on non-essential travel between the two countries for another month.
The extended restrictions will include stepped-up enforcement and surveillance at most Canadian land borders in the coming weeks, said the sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity as they are not authorized the speak publicly on the matter.
By mutual agreement, the US-Canada border has been closed to all non-essential traffic since March. At least one public poll suggests Canadians aren’t eager for a reopening as the pandemic escalates dramatically in the US, where new cases of the diseases have reached 60,000 a day nationwide.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is expected to formally announce the decision later this week.
“We recognize that the situation continues to be complex in the United States in regards to Covid-19,” Trudeau said during a Monday press conference. “Every month we have been able to extend the border closures to all but essential goods and services, and those discussions are ongoing with the United States right now as we are a week from the next deadline for closures. We’re going to continue to work hard to keep Canadians safe and to keep our economies flowing and we will have more to say later this week, I’m sure.”
Public support for closed borders
CNN has reached out to US officials for comment, including the White House.
A State Department spokesperson from the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs told CNN that “we have nothing to announce at this time,” adding that, “Canada and Mexico remain strong partners as we work together to combat COVID-19.”
President Donald Trump and Trudeau discussed the matter briefly during a phone call Monday morning, according to Trudeau’s office. On Tuesday, the White House provided a readout of the call that did not mention an extension of the border closure.
“The two leaders recognized the significance of the historic United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) recently entered into force on July 1, 2020,” said a statement from deputy press secretary Judd Deere. “President Trump reiterated that USMCA is an unprecedented achievement for all three countries that will help ensure our economies emerge stronger from coronavirus.”
Truck drivers, health care workers, flight crews and others, including most recently sports professionals, are currently exempt from Canada’s mandatory 14-day quarantine.
According to one poll, a large majority of Canadians say the US-Canada border should remain closed for the foreseeable future. The US has 3.37 million confirmed cases and more than 135,000 deaths as of Tuesday, according to Johns Hopkins University, which reported that Canada has 110,058 cases and 8,836 deaths.
According to a CNN analysis, the US currently has the highest per capita death rate from Covid in the Americas, at over 41 coronavirus deaths per 100,000 population. Canada’s death rate is about 23.5 per 100,00, the analysis found.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford echoed Canadians’ apprehension to a border reopening Monday as he conceded the spike in cases in the US was a worrying development.
“I see these numbers from Florida and they’re staggering, 15,000 people who contracted Covid in a day, that is scary,” Ford said during a Monday press conference. “But we’re being pretty vigilant we aren’t rushing into anything; we’re opening up slowly.”
Reflecting that reality, in a statement to CNN, the Public Health Agency of Canada says it is imposing new control measures at its international borders.
“To minimize the risk of importation of Covid-19 cases into Canada, the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) has personnel at 36 points of entry across Canada. These high-volume ports of entry receive 90% of all inbound travelers,” the statement said.
“PHAC has deployed officials, including Screening Officers, Clinical Screening Officers, and Quarantine Officers, to select high-volume ports of entry to support the Canada Border Services Agency in carrying out Covid-19 enhanced screening measures. These include conducting health assessments and determining the suitability of quarantine and isolation as required under the Quarantine Act,” the statement continues.