The Canada-US border is expected to close to non-essential travel by Saturday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said.

"We are continuing to work on the fine-tuning of the agreement between Canada (and) the United States, I think it's almost there," Trudeau told a news conference Thursday from his home.

The Canadian leader and his family have been self-isolating for a week after his wife Sophie tested positive for COVID-19 following her return from a speaking engagement in Britain.

Trudeau and US President Donald Trump on Wednesday announced the temporary shutdown of their countries' shared 8,900-kilometer (5,500-mile) border -- the longest in the world.

"My understanding is that the measure will probably come into place in the night between Friday and Saturday, so in about a day and a half," Trudeau said Thursday.

Trump has said the Canada-US border would likely be reopened in "say 30 days."

The measure follows similar US moves to bar visitors from most of Europe, China and other parts of the world as its number of coronavirus cases surges.

The United States has recorded 10,755 cases of coronavirus infection, more than 150 of them fatal.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (pictured March 16, 2020) also urged all Canadians living abroad to "come home". Photo: AFP / Dave Chan

In Canada, the number of cases passed 800 Thursday, with 11 deaths, according to public health officials.

"What continues to concern us is the day by day sharp increasing (number of) cases, and the reports from provinces of new cases with no links to travel," Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam said.

Her deputy, Howard Njoo, added that "border measures are one component, one layer of a multi-layered system," but that they alone won't stop the introduction of a virus into the country."

More than $2 billion worth of goods and 400,000 people cross the Canada-US border each day.

"Essential border crossings will not be impeded, trade between our two countries will not be impeded," Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland said.

Trudeau also took the opportunity on Thursday to again urge Canadians to "come home." An estimated 3 million Canadians live or work abroad.

"All those having trouble coming back, I can tell you we are working hard to resolve that situation," he said, noting that he has spoken with the chief executives of Air Canada and WestJet to ask for help facilitating repatriation.

The two airlines said recently that they would suspend most or all international commercial flights, respectively.

Also on Thursday, Montreal-based Cirque du Soleil announced it was laying off more than 4,500 employees -- 95 percent of its workforce -- amid the pandemic.

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