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Detroit —  Restrictions on nonessential travel between the United States and Canada were placed in effect Saturday in effort to slow the spread of coronavirus, officials said.

The temporary restrictions at the Northern borders exclude travel for work, medical purposes, emergency response, public health services and for trade.

Ports in Michigan that are closed to nonessential travel include the Windsor-Detroit Tunnel, the Ambassador Bridge, Sault Ste. Marie International Bridge, and the Blue Water Bridge in Port Huron.

The new rule doesn't apply to air, freight rail or sea travel between the two nations, but passenger rail and ferry travel face the same restrictions. 

Christopher Perry, Detroit's field director of Customs and Border Protection, said it was essential to close all ports of entry between Michigan and Canada in an effort to fight the world pandemic.

"These temporary restrictions are critical so we can preserve supply chains between both countries," Perry said. "These supply chains ensure that food, fuel and life-saving medicines will reach people on both sides of the border."

The temporary restriction will not impact supply chains or trucking, but will slow the spread of COVID-19 and help save lives, Perry said.

"Americans, Canadians who cross the land border daily to do essential work or for other essential reasons will not be impacted," Perry said. "Nonessential includes tourism, sightseeing, recreation, gambling or cultural events. I urge everyone to stay home if possible so that U.S. Customs and Border Protection can continue to do its mission here."

The crossing between Detroit and Windsor was the busiest for truck traffic along the U.S.-Canada border last year and second busiest for passenger vehicles with over 6 million total crossings, according to the U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics.

On Saturday morning, only limited large supply trucks could be seen crossing the Ambassador Bridge and security guards screened vehicles before entry into the Windsor-Detroit Tunnel.

Port Huron was the third busiest for trucks along the border and the fourth busiest for passenger vehicles with over 2.27 million crossings in 2019. 

Combined, the Detroit and Port Huron crossings accounted for more than a third (36%) of all U.S.-Canada trade in 2019, the bureau said.

The Michigan Health & Hospital Association and Michigan lawmakers had been pressing the Trump administration to ensure health care workers would qualify as essential individuals under the new travel restrictions, and they will be able to cross the border efficiently.

Roughly 2,600 Canadian nurses are licensed to work in Michigan, according to the Michigan Nurses Association, and an estimated 30,000 to 40,000 Canadians work in the United States with non-immigrant work visas.

It's unclear what kind of documentation that essential workers would need to cross the border. Customs and Border Protection did not immediately respond for comment Saturday.

srahal@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @SarahRahal_

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