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Breaking: U.S. and Canada to close border for nonessential travel

Deal would allow goods to continue to flow between the U.S. and Canada to preserve vital cross-border trade relationships.

U.S.-Canada border will close for non-essential travel but remain open for freight. (Photo: Shutterstock)

The United States and Canada will temporarily close their shared border to non-essential travel while continuing to allow goods to move between the countries to slow the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus.

“We will be, by mutual consent, temporarily closing our Northern Border with Canada to non-essential traffic. Trade will not be affected. Details to follow!” President Donald Trump tweeted this morning.

Trucks have continued to move relatively freely between the two countries as the COVID-19 pandemic has worsened alongside travel restrictions. On Monday, March 16, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced sweeping restrictions that closed the country’s borders to most non-Canadian and U.S. citizens, with exemptions for trade. 

“It’s been all systems go for us,” Dave Cox, president of Polaris Transportation Group, a less-than-truckload carrier based near Toronto, told FreightWaves. “Our drivers have been able to go back and forth to the U.S. uninhibited.” 

Polaris has seen an uptick in products such as hand sanitizer and canned and dried foods in recent weeks going in both directions, Cox said. 

“Our drivers have been professional while practicing good hygiene and social distancing,” he said.

To date, U.S. and Canadian officials have stressed the need to keep supply chains open during the pandemic. Cox said he doesn’t think the border will close for freight, but stood ready to adjust to any disruptions.

Trucks handled most of the C$750 billion (US$560 billion) in merchandise trade between the U.S. and Canada in 2019. 

Nate Tabak

Nate Tabak is a Toronto-based journalist and producer who covers cybersecurity and cross-border trucking and logistics for FreightWaves. He spent seven years reporting stories in the Balkans and Eastern Europe as a reporter, producer and editor based in Kosovo. He previously worked at newspapers in the San Francisco Bay Area, including the San Jose Mercury News. He graduated from UC Berkeley, where he studied the history of American policing. Contact Nate at [email protected].