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A Canadian maple leaf is seen on The Peace Bridge, which runs between Canada and the United States, on July 15, 2020.

BRENDAN MCDERMID/Reuters

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security says Canada and the United States have agreed to extend their mutual ban on non-essential travel between the two countries until Aug. 20.

“Based on the success of the existing restrictions and close collaboration with Mexico and Canada, [the Department of Homeland Security] will continue to limit non-essential travel at our land ports of entry with Canada and Mexico until Aug. 20,” acting Homeland Security secretary Chad Wolf tweeted Thursday.

“Close collaboration with our neighbours has allowed us to respond to COVID-19 in a North American approach and slow the travel-related spread of the virus.”

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The Canada-U.S. border has been closed to “discretionary” travel such as vacations and shopping trips since the COVID-19 pandemic took hold of the continent in mid-March, an agreement that had been set to expire July 21.

The extension comes with COVID-19 resurgent across the U.S. – cases are on the rise in all 50 states, and states such as Florida, Arizona and California are facing a fresh crisis with overcrowded hospital wards, refrigerated truck trailers serving as makeshift morgues and another shortage of personal protective medical gear.

The escalating emergency has also exposed a deep divide between Canadians dead-set against reopening the border and U.S. lawmakers in northern border states who continue to press both countries for a blueprint for doing exactly that.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has called the extent of the pandemic in the U.S. a “constantly evolving” situation, but won’t say whether officials have considered extending the border restrictions beyond the standard 30-day window.

“We’re going to keep working closely with our American neighbours to keep people safe on both sides of the border,” he said Thursday.

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