Thousands Continue To Cross US-Mexico Border Despite Travel Ban, Raising Fears Of More COVID-19 Cases

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Varun Hukeri General Assignment & Analysis Reporter
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Despite a ban on non-essential travel between the United States and Mexico due to the coronavirus, thousands of people are still traveling across the southern border with few health checks.

Thousands of cars are reported to be traveling to San Diego from the Mexican city of Tijuana, according to ABC News. Those crossing the border include Mexican workers entering the United States, dual citizens, American retirees and foreign nationals crossing illegally.

Earlier this month, the Trump administration announced plans to indefinitely extend its border restrictions, which only permits essential travel, until it was determined “that the danger of further introduction of Covid-19 into the United States has ceased to be a danger to the public health.” The travel ban first went into effect in March, when both the northern and southern borders were closed off to all non-essential travel.

However, border crossings are still occurring in large numbers with little screening, as border officials are reportedly taking temperatures of drivers only if they exhibit clear symptoms, according to Fox News. The lack of widespread testing and reporting, however, has raised concerns about the virus traveling back and forth between cities along the US-Mexico border.

Trucks line up before heading to the United States at the Otay commercial port of entry on the US-Mexico border in Tijuana, Baja California State, Mexico, on March 20, 2020. - Mexico and the United States have agreed to 'restrict non-essential' border crossings in an attempt to slowdown the COVID-19 spreading, limiting the crossings to commercial, medical and essentials. (Photo by Guillermo ARIAS / AFP) (Photo by GUILLERMO ARIAS/AFP via Getty Images)

Trucks line up before heading to the United States at the Otay port of entry in Tijuana, Mexico (Guillermo Arias/AFP via Getty Images)

Scripps Mercy Hospital in southern California told ABC News Thursday that nearly half of their patients had traveled across the border, with the checkpoint between Tijuana and San Diego reporting a high volume of travel. The number of new cases in southern California has also spiked as hospitals like Scripps Mercy are forced to send new patients to other facilities.

Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) Commissioner Mark Morgan told reporters in April that although travel has fallen dramatically, the borders have not been totally shut down due to the importance of cross-border trade, which is valued at $3 billion a day. (RELATED: CBP Chief: Imagine The Coronavirus Pandemic If The Border Crisis Was Never Addressed)

The drop in cross-border travel has not entirely eliminated the threat of illegal border crossings, however. Even after a 50% drop in illegal crossings was reported in April, the number of border enforcement actions that month still exceeded 16,000. Foreign nationals that tested positive for the coronavirus have also been arrested by CBP.

Mexico’s outbreak has worsened in the last week, with more than 3,000 new cases being reported daily as the total number of cases in the country approaches 82,000.