March 19, 2020 / 9:28 PM / 16 days ago

U.S. could announce southern border restrictions to curb coronavirus - sources

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States could announce restrictions on travel across the U.S.-Mexico border as soon as Friday, limiting crossings to essential travel, two officials briefed on the matter said.

The sources said the restrictions would be similar to those the United States and Canada have agreed to adopt on the northern U.S. border in a bid to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

The U.S. and Mexican governments are still discussing the matter, according to three U.S. officials and one Mexican official.

The administration of U.S. President Donald Trump has stepped up its response to the coronavirus outbreak over the past week. More than 11,500 confirmed cases of the disease have surfaced in the United States with 181 deaths, according to the latest data compiled by Reuters.

Trump said on Wednesday that the U.S.-Canada border would close to nonessential traffic, but that the move would not affect trade between the two countries.

A senior official with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, who requested anonymity to discuss the ongoing talks, said the United States would prefer to reach an agreement with Mexico, but could act unilaterally if necessary.

Reporting by David Shepardson, Arshad Mohammed, Ted Hesson, Jeff Mason and John Shiffman; Editing by Sandra Maler and Rosalba O'Brien

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