US curbing border access as California and New York begin coronavirus lockdown

By Associated Press Reporters

The US and Mexico have announced plans to sharply limit travel over their shared border as part of efforts to control the spread of the coronavirus.

President Donald Trump and Mexican foreign secretary Marcelo Ebrard said the two governments had agreed to prohibit recreational and tourist travel, similar to restrictions put in place earlier this week along the US-Canadian border.

Mr Trump said the actions with the country’s North American partners “will save countless lives”.

There would be no ban on people travelling for work or other essential activities and there would be no halt to commercial traffic, Mr Ebrard said.

Secretary of state Mike Pompeo said the restrictions would take effect at midnight on Friday.

The US, Mexico and Canada have also worked out a new agreement to immediately return people trying to illegally cross the borders, citing the potential health risk of detaining migrants amid the outbreak.

By excluding commercial traffic from the ban, the two governments substantially softened the economic effects. 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.

Officials again urged Americans to maintain social distancing while Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, applauded strict new measures put in place by the governors of California and New York state to limit mobility in an effort to stop the spread of the virus.

California’s 40 million residents should stay home indefinitely and venture outside only for essential jobs, errands and some exercise, governor Gavin Newsom has said.

The move, the most sweeping by any US state so far, came amid warnings that the coronavirus threatens to overwhelm the region’s medical system.

New York state later joined California in ordering nearly all residents to stay home. Governor Andrew Cuomo said New York is going to “close the valve” because its hospital system could also become overwhelmed.

(PA Graphics)

Meanwhile, Mr Trump has invoked the Defence Production Act to get much-needed medical supplies on the front lines of the outbreak, mobilising the federal government to marshal the private sector.

“Americans from every walk of life are coming together,” he said. “We are winning and we are going to win this war.”

The new measures comes as the administration comes under increased scrutiny for its inability to provide masks and ventilators to hospitals on the verge of being overwhelmed by patients.

On Capitol Hill, legislators have been working urgently on a trillion-dollar aid package to prop up households and the US economy that would put money directly into American’s pockets.