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Tuesday,  March 5, 2024 6:15 AM 

Canada-U.S. border closure set for midnight; 500,000+ EI applications clog system

Canada-U.S. border closure set for midnight; 500,000+ EI applications clog system
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (CBC News)
Michael Pihach

Michael Pihach is an award-winning journalist with a keen interest in digital storytelling. In addition to PAX, Michael has also written for CBC Life, Ryerson University Magazine, IN Magazine, and Michael joins PAX after years of working at popular Canadian television shows, such as Steven and Chris, The Goods and The Marilyn Denis Show.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Friday (March 20th) that the border between Canada and the United States will close to non-essential travel at midnight as both countries try and halt the spread of COVID-19.

Addressing the nation for the fifth day in a row from his home in Ottawa, Trudeau added that "irregular migrants" will be sent back to the U.S. when they reach the Canadian border.

This is part of a deal Canada has with its U.S. counterparts, Trudeau said.

This extends to the Roxham Road crossing between New York and Quebec, where asylum seekers have crossed by foot into Canada from the U.S.

On Wednesday, reports showed that asylum seekers were being screened for COVID-19 and being moved to a shelter as part of an order that requires incoming travellers to Canada to self-isolate for 14 days.

“People who cross the border will be returned to U.S. authorities,” Trudeau told reporters.

The Canada-U.S. border will, however, remain open for trade and commerce.

Canadians to return from Morocco  

In Canada, there have been at least 872 cases of COVID-19, with 11 recoveries and 12 deaths reported.

Trudeau said he is still in talks with Canadian airlines to help fly home Canadians that are stuck in destinations that have restricted their borders.

The PM revealed that a repatriation flight to bring home Canadians stranded in Morocco will take place this weekend.

In Canada, there have been at least 872 cases of COVID-19. Image: Image credit: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

Communities worldwide are implementing measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19, which has amounted to more than 250,000 cases worldwide.

Governor Gavin Newsom ordered California's nearly 40 million residents to stay home on Thursday, making it the first U.S. state to impose a strict order on all residents.

As to whether Canada would adapt a similar measure, Trudeau said “nothing is off the table.”

500,000+ EI applications 

The Prime Minister is currently in self-isolation after his wife, Sophie, tested positive for COVID-19 last week.

Trudeau used Friday’s press conference to also introduce a new strategy that will help manufacturers increase production of medical supplies, such as sanitizers and masks.

The Government unveiled an $82 billion-dollar aid package this week to help Canadians amid the economic downturn caused by COVID-19, promising $27 billion for supporting workers and businesses and $55-billion in tax deferrals to help businesses survive.

Offering easier access to Employment Insurance (EI) is also part of the plan as COVID-19 continues to damage industries across Canada, resulting in mass layoffs.

Trudeau said Friday that Service Canada has received an “historic” number of “more than 500,000” EI applications this week from Canadians seeking financial help. 

(To put that into perspective, there were 27,000 applications at this time last year).

“Our government is working as fast as possible to support that,” Trudeau said. “It’s putting a lot pressure on our system, but we’re on it.”

For the Government of Canada's latest updates on COVID-19, click here.

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