Coronavirus: Windsor, Ont. officials say decision to partially close Canada-U.S. border is for the best

The federal government’s decision to drastically limit traffic across the U.S-Canada border will be well worth the economic consequences if it helps curb the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, officials for a major Ontario border city said Wednesday.

All acknowledged that an economic cloud will likely descend on Windsor, Ont., home to the busiest crossing between the two nations and soon to be largely deserted after Wednesday’s announcement of the looming closure.

The Canadian and United States governments, by mutual consent, announced the border would be barred to all non-essential traffic, with exceptions for goods flowing between the two countries and critical staff such as health-care workers.

Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens said that while the move represents a sharp departure from the norm, it makes sense in light of the extraordinary conditions the COVID-19 outbreak has imposed around the world.

“I think folks here can put up with the short-term pain of not being able to buy groceries or … go for dinner in Detroit over the long-term gain of making sure that they and their families are healthy and help flatten the curve on this very serious matter,” Dilkens said in a telephone interview Wednesday.

Dilkens said border traffic had already slowed to a crawl in the days leading up to the federal announcement as a series of unprecedented closures took effect in both countries.

In Windsor, as in the rest of Ontario, many businesses closed their doors in a bid to promote so-called “social distancing” as the number of COVID-19 cases continued to climb. A state of emergency was declared in the province on Tuesday, and health officials said Wednesday that the number of cases linked to the novel coronavirus had passed 200.

But trucks ferrying critical goods such as food and medicine between the two countries continued to roll even as the public health situation deteriorated, and Dilkens said he’s glad to see that traffic will not be disrupted by the new federal measures.

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