Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says his country’s border with the US would not fully reopen for at least several weeks.
The border — the world’s longest international frontier at 5,500 miles — was shut to all nonessential travelers on both sides on March 21 in response to the coronavirus crisis, though cross-border trade continued.
“We are having ongoing discussions on border issues, on supply chains with the United States all the time,” Trudeau told reporters at a briefing Thursday, Agence France Presse reported.
But “the reality is that it will still be many weeks” before “we can talk about relaxing the restrictions on our borders,” he said.
We “must protect our citizens, as every country does,” Trudeau added. “Most countries in the world have restricted travel, and Canada and the United States are no exception.”
Trudeau’s deputy and point person on US relations, Chrystia Freeland, added that Ottawa will only ease border restrictions “when it is not a risk to the health and safety of Canadians.”
Canada’s population is about nine times smaller than that of the United States.
So far, the US has recorded more than 33,000 coronavirus deaths, while Canada’s death toll is more than 1,600.
But the two Canadian provinces most affected, Quebec and Ontario, border New York state — the epicenter of the US outbreak.
Some $2.4 billion worth of goods and more than 400,000 people crossed the border each day on average prior to the pandemic.
Trump had said on Wednesday that the border with Canada would be “one of the early borders to be released.”
“Our relationship with Canada is very good — we’ll talk about that,” the US leader said. “Canada’s doing well, we’re doing well — so we’ll see, but at some point, we will be doing that.”
Trump said the US would be “keeping very strong borders” with nations that had high infection rates.
Trudeau during his briefing struck a conciliatory note.
“There’s a recognition that as we move forward there will be special thought given to this relationship. But at the same time, we know that there is a significant amount of time, still, before we can talk about loosening such restrictions,” the prime minister said.
With Post wires
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