Longer wait times expected at US border under new COVID-19 protocols

There will be additional lane closures and customs inspections.

The U.S. will slow down the flow of traffic at select ports of entry on the Southwest border to further limit the spread of novel coronavirus by travelers coming from Mexico, a Customs and Border Protection official confirmed on Saturday.

Non-essential travel has been limited since March, but the new measures may increase wait times at ports of entry in San Diego, California; Tucson, Arizona; and El Paso and Laredo, Texas. Reuters first reported on the additional lane closures and customs inspections that will likely delay anyone traveling for non-essential reasons.

"We’re committed to continuing to facilitate cross border movement of essential travelers," CBP spokesperson Nate Peeters said. "These measures are only intended to address non-essential travel with the ultimate goal of the further inhibiting the cross-border spread of COVID-19."

The restrictions on non-essential travel, set to continue through Sept. 21, do not apply to anyone crossing the border for work, school or medical treatment. U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents are still legally allowed to enter.

"However, it is highly recommended that they do so for only essential purposes," Peeters said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports more than 5.5 million cases of coronavirus infections in the U.S. More than 543,000 cases have been recorded in Mexico, according to the World Health Organization.