Canada to keep border restrictions with U.S. for long time: Trudeau

OTTAWA (Reuters) – Canada’s border restrictions with the United States will remain in place “for a significant time” as the two nations fight the coronavirus outbreak, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Thursday.

Washington and Ottawa agreed last month to clamp down on non-essential travel while allowing massive trade flows to continue across their long shared frontier.

“There’s a recognition that as we move forward there will be special thought given to this relationship. But at the same time we know that there is a significant amount of time, still, before we can talk about loosening such restrictions,” Trudeau told a daily briefing.

U.S. President Donald Trump on Wednesday told reporters the two nations were “doing well” and said, “It will be one of the early borders to be released.”

The two nations’ economies are highly integrated, and allowing trade to continue avoided major problems for the auto sector as well as the transportation of food and medicines.

Although Trudeau’s government has enjoyed good relations with the Trump administration over the last 18 months, tensions still remain. Last month, Ottawa slammed a U.S. proposal to deploy troops along the border to fight the spread of the novel coronavirus, prompting Washington to drop the plan.

A total of 1,048 people in Canada had died from the coronavirus by 11 a.m. EDT (1500 GMT), slightly less than 10% higher than the death toll a day ago, official data posted by the public health agency showed.

The total number of those diagnosed with the coronavirus had climbed to 28,899. The respective figures at the same time on Wednesday were 954 deaths and 27,540 positive diagnoses.

Medical officials now expect the death toll to be between 1,200 and 1,620 by April 21, Theresa Tam, the chief public health officer, told a briefing.

She repeated comments she made on Wednesday about being cautiously optimistic the outbreak could be slowing down.

The Canadian government has already announced more than C$110 billion in direct spending on measures to help people and businesses deal with the economic damage from the outbreak.

Trudeau said Ottawa would expand loans to firms that paid between C$20,000 and C$1.5 million in total payroll in 2019, and also planned to help commercial property owners cut or even forgive rent to small businesses.

The Pacific province of British Columbia said it would reduce property taxes by 25% and allow municipalities greater flexibility in taking on debt.

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