U.S.-Mexico border restrictions on the table as coronavirus spreads

The United States and Mexico are working on plans to halt much of cross-border travel without disrupting trade during the coronavirus outbreak, officials said.

Mexican Foreign Relations Secretary Marcelo Ebrard said Thursday he proposed steps to U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that “won’t paralyze economic activity and keep the border open to commerce and work.” He promised details on Friday.

Pompeo said on Twitter that he was working closely with his Mexican counterpart “on travel restrictions that balance protecting our citizens from further transmission of #COVID19. Together, we can reduce public health risks and prioritize essential cross-border commerce and trade.”

U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials briefed business leaders Thursday on plans to prohibit nonessential travel, similar to a measure announced earlier this week on the Canadian border, said Paola Avila, chair of the Border Trade Alliance, a business group.

The measure would effectively close the U.S. to all tourist and recreational visits along the Mexican border, said Avila, who participated in a conference call with CBP officials. Administration officials said the U.S. would announce it as early as Friday, though details were still being worked out and subject to change, she said.

U.S. officials provided a long list of “essential” workers that would be unaffected going to and from their jobs, including farmworkers, restaurant and grocery store employees and bus drivers, said Avila. Mexico was preparing similar restrictions on visitors from the United States.

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