U.S., Mexico working on travel restrictions to curb coronavirus - Pompeo
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[March 20, 2020]
By David Shepardson, Arshad Mohammed and Ted Hesson
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of
State Mike Pompeo said on Thursday he was working with his Mexican
counterpart on travel restrictions to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
The United States could announce restrictions on travel across the
U.S.-Mexico border as soon as Friday, limiting crossings to essential
travel, two officials briefed on the matter said.
The sources said the restrictions would be similar to those the United
States and Canada have agreed to adopt on the northern U.S. border.
Pompeo said in a Twitter post that he had been working closely with
Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard "on travel restrictions that
balance protecting our citizens from further transmission" of COVID-19,
the disease caused by coronavirus.
"Together, we can reduce public health risks and prioritize essential
cross-border commerce and trade," Pompeo said.
Mexico's foreign ministry said in a statement after a conversation
between Pompeo and Ebrard that the bilateral efforts would seek to
maintain trade flows and economic activity between the two countries
while also tackling coronavirus.
The U.S. and Mexican governments are still discussing the possible
border restrictions, which would not include cross-border trade,
according to three U.S. officials and one Mexican official.
The administration of U.S. President Donald Trump has stepped up its
response to the coronavirus outbreak over the past week. Nearly 12,000
confirmed cases of the disease have surfaced in the United States with
199 deaths, according to the latest data compiled by Reuters.
The United States and Canada also plan to close their border to
nonessential traffic in the coming days.
A Mexican government source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said
President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador is concerned about the economic
impact of border restrictions with his country already in recession.
A senior official with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS),
who also requested anonymity to discuss the ongoing talks, said the
United States would prefer to reach an agreement with Mexico, but could
act unilaterally if necessary.
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U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo arrives for a news conference on
the current state of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) at the State
Department in Washington, U.S., March 17, 2020. REUTERS/Tom Brenner
While the restrictions are not expected to affect trade, communities
on both sides of the border depend on economic activity generated
Roughly 3 million personal vehicles crossed legally each month in
2019 between San Diego, California, and the Mexican border city of
Tijuana, according to U.S. Department of Transportation data.
U.S. Representative Henry Cuellar, a Democrat whose district sits on
the border in south Texas, said he had spoken with U.S. border
officials who said possible restrictions would be limited to
Cuellar said the officials were working to define what type of
travel would be permitted.
"If someone is coming for recreation purposes, that’s one thing," he
said. "But you have people who come over to work or go over to buy
food and medicines. Those we would consider essential and they’re
trying to work on that."
Rogelio Villa, a 45-year-old audiovisual technician who works
full-time in Tijuana but often performs extra freelance work for
clients in the United States, said border restrictions would hurt
"The extra hours are a huge help in terms of money," he said.
(Reporting by David Shepardson, Arshad Mohammed, Ted Hesson and Jeff
Mason in Washington; additional reporting by John Shiffman and Brad
Heath in Washington and Frank Jack Daniel, Dave Graham, David Alire
Garcia and Lizbeth Diaz in Mexico City; Editing by Sandra Maler,
Rosalba O'Brien, Cynthia Osterman and Daniel Wallis)
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