US, Mexico curb cross-border travel; Trump sees no need for national lockdown

Washington, Mar 20 (efe-epa).- President Donald Trump announced Friday that the United States and Mexico agreed to halt non-essential cross-border travel to contain the spread of the Covid-19 coronavirus.

But while the country’s largest state, California, has ordered its 40 million residents to stay home to prevent further contagion, Trump said that he doesn’t expect to implement a nationwide lockdown.

Speaking at the White House during the daily news briefing from the coronavirus task force, the president also said that he began the process of using his authority under the 1950 Defense Production Act to task US manufacturers with making ventilators, personal protective equipment for health care workers and other items needed to cope with the crisis.

“We are treating the borders equally, the northern border and the southern border. They’re being treated equally. A lot of people say they are not being treated equally. They are,” Trump said of the accord with Mexico, which followed a similar accord with Canada.

“As we did with Canada, we’re also working with Mexico to implement new rules at our ports of entry to suspend nonessential travel,” he said. “These new rules and procedures will not impede lawful trade and commerce.”

That point was underscored by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo as he explained the restrictions due to last for 30 days starting Saturday.

“Both countries know the importance of working together to limit the spread of the virus and ensure the commerce that supports our economy continues to keep flowing,” he said.

The value of US-Mexico trade is roughly $1.7 billion a day.

Other measures announced at Friday’s press conference include waiving federally required standardized tests in the nation’s schools and permitting people with federal student loans to skip payments for two days without penalties or interest.

Two days after invoking the Defense Production Act, while describing the law as something he was ready to use if needed, Trump said Friday that he had put the process “in gear.”

On the economic front, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said Friday that US taxpayers would have until July 15 to file their returns, three months beyond the usual deadline of April 15.

US fatalities from Covid-19 climbed above 200 on Friday and the number of confirmed cases topped 14,000.

“California and New York have done that,” Trump said when a reporter asked about the possibility of a nationwide lockdown. “I don’t think we’ll ever find that necessary.”

In the Golden State, Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered non-essential businesses to close and urged people to remain at home, citing a projection that 56 percent of Californians will become infected with the coronavirus over the next eight weeks.

Newsom’s counterpart in New York state, Andrew Cuomo, said Friday that only people involved in providing essential goods and services should report to work. EFE


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