US-Canada border to close to non-essential traffic at midnight tonight

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau -- Herald file photo.

Border restrictions allowing only essential travellers and the flow of goods across the US-Canada border came into effect at midnight last night.

The measure was agreed to by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and US President Donald Trump earlier this week. On Friday, Trudeau also announced that the two countries had come to a reciprocal arrangement where irregular migrants who attempt to cross anywhere at the border will be returned home.

Those announcements were just two in Trudeau’s Friday media briefing. The PM held daily morning briefings to update Canadians on his government’s response to COVID-19.

Trudeau said on Friday that his government would be working with businesses to quickly produce much-needed supplies, such as ventilators, masks and hand sanitizers, needed to respond to the pandemic.

The plan would be to help those who can already produce those supplies ramp up production while also helping other manufacturers retool, such as auto parts manufacturers.

“Many businesses put their hands up and asked what they could do,” Trudeau said.

He thanked the businesses who had come forward for their efforts “ to contribute to this fight.”

The government’s role will be to help create new procurement streams for more businesses to develop solutions and products. He said that thousands of public servants are working “around the clock” to help Canadians and businesses impacted by the pandemic.

The federal government on Friday also announced amendments to mortgage insurance eligibility criteria.

Effective March 24, low loan-to-value mortgages with a  maximum amortization term of up to 30 years commencing from when the loan was funded and low loan-to-value mortgages whose purpose includes the purchase of a property, renewal of such a loan or refinancing are eligible for government-guaranteed insurance.

“We have to do the right thing … to protect everyone,” Trudeau said.

“There are people talking about historical echoes — we’re focused on doing what we need to do right now. We will face it together.

As of Friday morning, there were 898 cases of COVID-19, and at least one in every province. Twelve Canadians have died.

Of the cases reported to date, just over half (55 per cent) are male. About one third (29 per cent) are 60 or older.

Common symptoms include cough (81 per cent), fever (58 per cent) and shortness of breath (26 per cent). So far, nine per cent have been hospitalized with three per cent of cases requiring admission to the ICU.

Over half (54 per cent) of cases Canada-wide have been from a traveller, with ten per cent of cases coming in someone who had close contact with a traveller.

About one-quarter (24 per cent) of cases are from a community setting, with the remaining 12 per cent pending.