The U.S. government says it will continue to limit “non-essential” travel through its land ports of entry with Mexico and Canada for an eighth-consecutive month in an effort to stem the spread of the coronavirus.
The restrictions, which were initially put in place on March 21 and have been extended for 30 days every month since then, are now set to remain in place through Nov. 21, Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf said in a tweet on Monday.
“We are working closely with Mexico and Canada to identify safe criteria to ease the restrictions in the future and support our border communities,” Wolf added.
On the U.S.-Mexico border, the restrictions primarily apply to people crossing into the United States from Mexico on a tourist visa. In Nogales, northbound pedestrian and personal vehicle crossings through the local ports of entry, which were trending up from 2019 in January and February, have plummeted since the travel restrictions went into effect.
In September, just 86,453 pedestrians crossed into the United States at local ports of entry, down from 361,703 in September 2019, according to U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics data. That decline has been especially devastating for the Morley Avenue downtown shopping district, which depends on Mexican shoppers crossing the border on foot. On one recent Saturday afternoon, the NI found all but four of the 40 storefronts on the east side of Morley to be closed.
Meanwhile, 148,379 passenger vehicles carrying 247,208 passengers crossed into Arizona through Nogales ports last month, down from 285,792 vehicles and 588,699 vehicle passengers in September 2019.
The restrictions do not apply to cross-border commercial traffic.
Mexico has not imposed any restrictions on U.S. citizens crossing the border into its territory, other than a brief period around the July 4 holiday when officials in Sonora imposed their own temporary ban on non-essential cross-border traffic.
Instead, authorities have implemented screening measures on the south side of the ports of entry in Nogales, Sonora, such as temperature checks and disinfectant tunnels, that have slowed southbound traffic at the border and led to backups in downtown Nogales, Ariz.