OTTAWA/WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Canada and the United States appear likely to extend a ban on non-essential travel until June 21 amid the ongoing novel coronavirus pandemic, sources in both nations said on Wednesday.
FILE PHOTO: Ashley Van Dorp of Abbotsford shows her mother, Susan Halewood of Blaine, Washington, her Mother’s Day gift as the family gathered for Mother’s Day along the Canada-U.S. border, closed to non-essential travel due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) restrictions in Langley, British Columbia, Canada May 10, 2020. REUTERS/Jennifer Gauthier/File Photo
The two neighbors had agreed on April 18 to extend border restrictions until May 21 as cases of the disease continue to rise in both nations. Canada is now pressing for the measures to remain for another month.
“It’s too early to lift the restrictions, so we’re working toward an extension,” said one Canadian government source, describing the talks with Washington as positive.
In Washington, a U.S. official confirmed the two sides were set to agree on a 30-day extension.
On Tuesday, the chief Canadian public health officer said the United States – where cases are increasing steadily – presented a risk.
The sources requested anonymity given the sensitivity of the situation. News of the request for a 30-day extension was first reported by the Globe and Mail newspaper.
The agreement allows the flow of goods across a border that stretches 8,891 km (5,525 miles) and is a crossing point for one of the world’s largest bilateral trading relationships.
The United States takes 75% of all Canadian goods exports.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said talks about the border “are going well and we’re confident about being able to continue to keep Canadians safe”, adding that the overall collaboration with the United States had been exceptional.
The U.S. official said Washington and Mexico were also set to extend similar restrictions on non-essential travel. Separately, a Mexican government source said an extension for a limited period seemed likely.
The total Canadian death toll edged up by just over 3% to 5,209 from 5,049 on Tuesday, official data showed on Wednesday. The data are another sign the outbreak is slowing whereas the situation in parts of the United States is more challenging.
The Canadian provinces of Ontario and Quebec are adjacent to the state of New York, one of the U.S. epicenters of the disease. Canadian officials have been repeatedly pressed about the potential risk posed by arriving truck drivers.
Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, on Tuesday said the coronavirus “could take off rapidly” unless extreme caution was exercised about relaxing the ban.
“The United States being one country that still has cases and is still trying to manage outbreaks … presents a risk to Canada from that perspective.”
Additional reporting by Bhargav Acharya in Bengaluru, Susan Heavey in Washington, Dave Graham in Mexico City and Steve Scherer and Kelsey Johnson in Ottawa; Editing by Bernadette Baum