Coronavirus

Not Even Justin Trudeau Wants to Go to the U.S. Right Now

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau declined an invitation from Donald Trump to attend a NAFTA meeting in the U.S., where COVID-19 cases are exponentially higher than in Canada.
08 July 2020, 10:10am
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau; U.S. President Donald Trump
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau declined an invitation to meet with President Donald Trump in person this week. Photo by Evan Vucci (AP)

The Canada-U.S. border will remain closed until at least July 21, with about 81 percent of Canadians saying they believe it should stay that way for the foreseeable future.

Murmurs about the border’s future coincide with two very different coronavirus pandemic outcomes in the U.S. and Canada. The U.S. infection rate is nearly three times higher than Canada’s, with the country reporting nearly three million total COVID-19 cases—44,361 in the last 24 hours alone. In the meantime, Canada has reported 105,935 total cases, with daily increases in the low triple digits.

The U.S. is grappling with major outbreaks currently concentrated in Florida, Texas, Arizona, and California.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has extended the border closure every month since it first shut on March 21 with the intention of stymieing cross-border virus spread. The closure bans all non-essential travel between the two countries and requires travellers entering Canada to quarantine for 14 days, even if they’re not experiencing COVID-19 symptoms.

Trudeau eased restrictions in June for Americans who have immediate family in Canada, but they also have to quarantine for two weeks.

B.C. Health Officer Bonnie Henry told reporters on Monday she doesn’t believe the border will reopen anytime soon.

“We know that that’s how we got into trouble back in March…we had a lot of people coming across the border,” Henry said, adding that a number of B.C.’s new cases are from people who have either travelled or been in contact with someone who was recently in the U.S.

Even Trudeau has opted to stay in Canada this week after President Donald Trump invited him and Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador to a NAFTA meeting in Washington D.C.

“We wish the United States and Mexico well at Wednesday’s meeting,” the prime minister’s office said in a statement. “While there were recent discussions about the possible participation of Canada, the Prime Minister will be in Ottawa this week for scheduled Cabinet meetings and the long-planned sitting of Parliament.”

Trudeau spoke with Lopez Obrador over the phone on Monday ahead of Wednesday’s meeting.

The two voiced support over the new NAFTA agreement and discussed investments in renewable energy to help fight climate change while supporting economic growth, according to a statement from the prime minister.

Trump has also expressed his desire to host an in-person G7 summit this summer. When asked if he would attend, Trudeau cited the U.S.-Canada border closure and said his decision will depend on the advice from public health officials.

Opening border would be ‘terrifying’

Over the weekend, a minor COVID-19 outbreak in eastern Canada was linked to a U.S. traveller who crossed the border on June 26. The man, who tested positive for COVID-19, ended up in Nova Scotia and came into contact with a Prince Edward Island resident who was also visiting the province at the time. After the P.E.I resident, who is in his 20s, returned home, he, along with two others, was diagnosed with COVID-19. Nova Scotia’s public health authority is currently conducting contact tracing.

In March, 37 percent of COVID-19 cases in Ontario were linked to travel, according to Ontario Public Health. By June, the figure plummeted to less than 1.5 percent.

An infectious disease specialist told CTV News easing border restrictions between the U.S. and Canada would be “terrifying.”

“If you look around the world at other countries that have successfully flattened the curve, a lot of resurgent cases have been a direct result of travel restrictions being eased," Dr. Abdu Sharkawy said. "Border control and travel restrictions are a very key element in keeping your particular geographical area safe."

Follow Anya Zoledziowski on Twitter.