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U.S., Canada agree to extend border closure until at least Aug. 21

US Canada Border (Flickr/WikiCommons)

Canadian television is reporting that the United States and Canadian governments have agreed to keep the border between the two countries closed to non-essential travel due to the coronavirus pandemic for another month.

Citing unnamed sources, CTV News is reporting that the two governments are on the same page to restrict traffic between the two countries until at least Aug. 21.

The ban on non-essential travel was first instituted March 21 and has been extended a month at a time, as the two countries attempt to slow the transmission of COVID-19 within their own borders.

The border is currently restricted to traffic considered essential until July 21, but the CTV report shows it will likely extend to a fifth month.

Essential traffic has included the flow of trade and commerce, as well as foreign workers and health-care workers, but tourists remain barred from crossing the border.

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Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau confirmed that talks with the U.S. over the border were “ongoing” and that he spoke to President Donald Trump on Monday, according to a CTV story published Monday.

“We’re going to continue to work hard to keep Canadians safe and to keep our economies flowing, we will have more to say later this week I’m sure,” Trudeau said, according to CTV.

More than a quarter of the 13.1 million confirmed COVID-19 cases worldwide are from the United States, which has 3.3 million reported cases according to Johns Hopkins University. Nearly a quarter of the deaths related to the illness have occurred in the U.S., as of Tuesday morning.

Canada, meanwhile, has reported 110,058 cases and 8,836 related deaths, Johns Hopkins reports.

On the West Coast, British Columbia has 3,115 cases and 189 deaths, Johns Hopkins reports, compared to the 41,757 cases and 1,399 deaths the Washington State Department of Health reported Monday.

Because of numbers like that, Canadians still overwhelmingly want to see the border with the United States remain closed during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Toronto Globe and Mail reported last week that a Nanos Research survey asked Canadian residents if they felt the border should open to non-essential travel or if they would prefer to see it stay closed for the forseeable future.

Of those polled, 81% said the border should stay closed, 14% said it should open now for areas where transmission rates are low and 3% said it should open immediately, with 2% saying they were unsure.

“The response is actually quite surprising considering we are a border country that relies on the United States for our livelihood … (it) suggests that Canadians have a very high level of anxiety about what’s happening in the pandemic in the United States,” Pollster Nik Nanos told the Globe and Mail.

British Columbia Provincial Health Minister Dr. Bonnie Henry said British Columbia is “very concerned” about the number of cases the U.S. is seeing and said it was unlikely there would be any summer vacation travel between the two countries, according to a story by CTV News.

Henry and B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix made the comments at a briefing on Monday, July 7, CTV reported.

“It’s important to remember it’s not just the issue of people visiting Canada,” Dix said, according to CTV. “It’s Canadians visiting the United States that would not be possible at this point.”

Despite trade and commerce being allowed during the border closing, both countries’ economies rely heavily on one another, and that is definitely seen here in Whatcom County.

The Western Washington University Border Policy Research Institute has found that Canadians comprise approximately 75% of cross-border travelers to and from Whatcom County, depending on the exchange rate, according to information Director Laurie Trautman emailed to The Bellingham Herald. In 2018, that would have represented approximately 10.5 million southbound Canadian travelers through the Blaine, Lynden, Sumas and Point Roberts points of entry.

Those Canadians represent a large portion of consumers in Whatcom County — anywhere from 2% to 46% of the weekend customer base Whatcom County retailers see, Trautman reported, adding that the average is about 17%.

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© 2020 The Bellingham Herald