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U.S. closes lanes, adds checks at Mexico border to contain coronavirus

Credit: REUTERS/MIKE BLAKE

The United States on Friday closed lanes at select ports of entry at the border with Mexico and will conduct more secondary checks to limit non-essential travel and the spread of coronavirus, a U.S. Customs and Border Protection official said.

By Julio-Cesar Chavez and Ted Hesson

WASHINGTON, Aug 21 (Reuters) - The United States on Friday closed lanes at select ports of entry at the border with Mexico and will conduct more secondary checks to limit non-essential travel and the spread of coronavirus, a U.S. Customs and Border Protection official said.

Non-essential travel has been restricted at the border since March, but the restrictions have mostly been applied to Mexican citizens. The new measures appeared to be aimed at U.S. citizens and legal residents living in Mexico.

U.S. President Donald Trump, who faces re-election Nov. 3, has taken a series of sweeping steps to scale back immigration during the coronavirus pandemic, including emergency border rules that allow U.S authorities to rapidly deport migrants arrested at the border, bypassing standard legal processes.

The United States leads the world with more than 174,000 confirmed deaths from the coronavirus, followed by Brazil with 112,000 and Mexico with 59,000, according to a Reuters tally.

"We need people to think twice about non-essential travel and to ask themselves if the travel is worth risking their lives and the lives of others," El Paso CBP spokesman Roger Maier said in a written statement, saying a recent agency survey of travelers found most cross-border travel by U.S. citizens and residents was non-essential.

In the El Paso area, CBP said it would take steps to reduce non-essential travel at four border crossings, but did not say which other ports of entry might be affected.

The Trump administration had been considering a measure to block U.S. citizens and permanent residents from returning home if they were suspected of being infected with the coronavirus, Reuters reported earlier this month. The plan was blasted by some hospitals, U.S. expats and immigrant advocacy groups.

Senior White House officials tabled the proposal, according to two officials familiar with the deliberations, although it remains unclear if it could be resurrected.

(Reporting by Julio-Cesar Chavez, Ted Hesson and David Shepardson in Washington; Editing by Frank Jack Daniel and Aurora Ellis)

((frank.daniel@thomsonreuters.com; +52 55 5282 7137; Reuters Messaging: frank.daniel.thomsonreuters.com@reuters.net))

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