Coronavirus outbreak: Non-essential travel restricted at the Mexico-U.S. border
Coronavirus outbreak: Non-essential travel restricted at the Mexico-U.S. border

Coronavirus outbreak: Non-essential travel restricted at the Mexico-U.S. border

20/03/2020
14:05
Newsroom & Agencies
Mexico City
Raúl Cortés, Frank Jack Daniel, Dave Graham, David Shepardson, Arshad Mohammed, Ted Hesson, Jeff Mason, John Shiffman, Brad Heath, David Alire García, Lizbeth Díaz, Sandra Maler, Rosalba O'Brien, Cynthia Osterman, Daniel Wallis, Raúl Fernández & Drazen Jo
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Mexican Foreign Affairs Minister Marcelo Ebrard announced restrictions on crossings for tourism at the U.S.-Mexico border as a coronavirus contention measure

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On Friday, Mexican Foreign Affairs Minister Marcelo Ebrard announced restrictions on crossings for tourism at the U.S.-Mexico border as a coronavirus contention measure but emphasized that trade, work, and medical trips would not be affected.

Ebrard said the measures by U.S. authorities would affect who is able to cross the border at ports of entry. He did not say whether additional measures were being taken to restrict illegal migration.

“Yes, in cases of tourism and recreation, essentially, it will be restricted,” he said.

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On Thursday, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said he was working with his Mexican counterpart on travel restrictions to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

In a Twitter post, Pompeo said that he had been working closely with Ebrard “on travel restrictions that balance protecting our citizens from further transmission” of COVID-19, the disease caused by coronavirus.

“Together, we can reduce public health risks and prioritize essential cross-border commerce and trade,” Pompeo said.

Mexico’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement after a conversation between Pompeo and Ebrard that the bilateral efforts would seek to maintain trade flows and economic activity between the two countries while also tackling coronavirus.

The U.S. and Mexican governments are still discussing the possible border restrictions, which would not include cross-border trade, according to three U.S. officials and one Mexican official.

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The administration of U.S. President Donald Trump has stepped up its response to the coronavirus outbreak over the past week. Nearly 12,000 confirmed cases of the disease have surfaced in the United States with 199 deaths, according to the latest data compiled by Reuters.

The United States and Canada also plan to close their border to non-essential traffic in the coming days.

A Mexican government source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said President Andrés Manuel López Obrador is concerned about the economic impact of border restrictions with his country already in recession.

A senior official with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), who also requested anonymity to discuss the ongoing talks, said the United States would prefer to reach an agreement with Mexico but could act unilaterally if necessary.

While the restrictions are not expected to affect trade, communities on both sides of the border depend on economic activity generated from visitors.

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In 2019, roughly 3 million personal vehicles crossed legally each month between San Diego, California, and the Mexican border city of Tijuana, according to U.S. Department of Transportation data.

U.S. Representative Henry Cuellar, a Democrat whose district sits on the border in south Texas, said he had spoken with U.S. border officials who said possible restrictions would be limited to non-essential travel.

Cuellar said the officials were working to define what type of travel would be permitted.

“If someone is coming for recreation purposes, that’s one thing,” he said. “But you have people who come over to work or go over to buy food and medicines. Those we would consider essential and they’re trying to work on that.”

On Friday, Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard said that Mexico and the United States have agreed to form a joint task force to work on measures to combat the spread of the coronavirus at the U.S.-Mexico border.

Mexico and the U.S. agreed that the non-essential land travel restrictions will start on March 20 at midnight.

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Marcelo Ebrard revealed that the restrictions, which will become valid in the first minute of March 21, have the purpose to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic and stressed that commerce will not be affected.

In a message to media outlets, Ebrard said that Mexico is currently in talks with the U.S. in order to assess possible restrictions on flights from Europe.

“We do understand that there must be restrictions and were are in talks; there is not a set agreement,” he said.

On Friday morning, the Trump administration announced an agreement with Mexico for “the suspension of non-essential traffic” in the border to halt coronavirus.

In a White House news conference, Mike Pompeo said that both Executives have agreed on the restriction of “non-essential traffic,” with the exception of commerce, in a pact similar to that made with Canada this week.

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