April 18, 2020 / 4:12 PM / in 4 months

Canada, U.S. extend border restrictions 30 days to control coronavirus spread

WINNIPEG, Manitoba (Reuters) - Canada and the United States have agreed to extend border restrictions for another 30 days to help control the spread of coronavirus, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Saturday.

Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau arrives for a news conference at the Rideau Cottage, as efforts continue to help slow the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada April 16, 2020. REUTERS/Blair Gable

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

The restrictions were due to expire next week. Trudeau said the agreement is unchanged, and he expected shipments of medical supplies such as masks to continue to cross the border.

President Donald Trump issued a memorandum this month that directed federal agencies to keep highly sought-after medical supplies in the United States. U.S. manufacturing company 3M Co reached a deal with the Trump administration, however, allowing it to continue to export masks to Canada and Latin America.

Canada’s death toll from COVID-19, the respiratory disease associated with the new coronavirus, rose 8% to 1,346 deaths, a government website said. Reported cases climbed 6% to 32,412.

Quebec is the epicenter of Canada’s outbreak, with seniors in care homes accounting for most of the province’s 805 deaths.

Canada was sending the army into the province starting Saturday to help alleviate staffing shortages in Quebec’s care facilities for seniors.

Ontario, the most populous province, surpassed 10,000 cases and reached 514 deaths, second-highest in Canada.

Some western provinces, by contrast, have seen daily tallies of new cases level off. British Columbia and Saskatchewan have said they are starting to plan for loosening restrictions.

Alberta, the country’s main producer of oil and cattle, has seen daily cases increase in the past week as it boosted testing. An outbreak of 358 cases linked to a Cargill Ltd beef plant in High River, Alberta, has also swelled numbers, it said on Friday.

Trudeau said Canada would support aboriginal businesses with C$306 million in interest-free loans and nonrepayable contributions. In total, Ottawa has unveiled C$115 billion ($82.15 billion) in direct spending to help companies and individuals deal with shutdowns.

Highlighting the economy’s vulnerability, Ottawa on Saturday said it would scrutinize foreign investments more closely, especially those by state-owned enterprises into companies that supply critical goods. Innovation Minister Navdeep Bains said Canada wants to avert opportunistic investors taking advantage of weak company valuations, due to the pandemic.

On Friday, the Liberal government announced C$2.5 billion in aid for the hard-hit energy sector.

Reporting by Rod Nickel in Winnipeg, Manitoba; Editing by Matthew Lewis and Sandra Maler

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