US-Canada border restrictions on ‘non-essential’ travel begin Saturday, last for 30 days

A road sign in Haines, 39 miles south of the Canadian border, in March 2020. (Photo by Henry Leasia/KHNS)

Border restrictions between the U.S. and Canada that bar “non-essential” travel to prevent the spread of coronavirus will go into force at midnight Saturday, March 21. That’s according to a statement from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and Canada Border Services Agency released Friday.

Gov. Mike Dunleavy sought to assure Alaskans on Thursday, during a press conference, that Canada’s border restrictions are not affecting Alaska’s crossings in Southeast Alaska or the Alaska Highway.

Related: As Canada closes the border, unanswered questions from Alaskans pile up

document drafted by Homeland Security’s acting general counsel defines “essential travel” as U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents returning to the U.S as well as travel for medical reasons, education, necessary work, emergency responses and legal cross-border trade. It also includes carve-outs for officials, military personnel and their families. Recreation and tourism are not considered essential.

The restrictions will be reviewed by both countries after 30 days.

Follow all our coverage of the coronavirus in Alaska.

Canada had announced Wednesday it would be closing its borders to “non-essential travel” as a public health precaution.  That led to concern from people in the Southeast communities of Haines, Skagway and Hyder whose only road access runs through British Columbia.

Jacob Resneck is CoastAlaska's regional news director in Juneau.

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