Mexico and the U.S. announced Friday that they would prohibit all “non-essential” travel across their shared border as part of efforts to control the spread of the coronavirus.
Both countries and Canada also agreed to immediately turn back anyone trying to cross their borders illegally, with U.S. officials saying that the unchecked entry of people from around the world poses a potential health risk because of the rapidly spreading virus.
“The actions we are taking together with our North American partners will save countless lives,” President Donald Trump said in announcing the measures.
Trump administration officials and Mexican Foreign Secretary Marcelo Ebrard outlined restrictions similar to those put in place earlier this week along the U.S. and Canadian border. The ban would apply to people who cross for tourism or recreation and other activities deemed “non-essential.”
“Everyone else is not expected to have any difficulties,” Ebrard told reporters in Mexico City. “We’re not talking about closing it.”
The ban, which takes effect at 11:59 p.m. Friday, does not include commercial traffic and remains in place as long as needed, officials said.
By excluding commercial traffic from the ban, the two governments substantially softened the economic effects. Also, fewer Americans are heading south because of a statewide stay-at-home order in California and a State Department warning advising Americans not to travel abroad.
Still, the restrictions are a major development along the world’s most heavily crossed border. Mexican shoppers are the lifeblood of smaller U.S. border towns, and it is common for people in both countries to cross frequently to visit family and friends.
As news of the ban spread, people like 68-year-old El Paso resident Silvia Shadden rushed to cross even if her reason could meet the definition of essential. Walking with a crutch, she returned from getting a weekly vitamin injection from a doctor in Mexico’s Ciudad Juarez that costs a fraction of what it does in the U.S.