Canadians still have to take a molecular test, like the expensive PCR test, to return to Canada from the United States after the land border reopens for fully vaccinated travelers in November.
In an interview d Rosemary Barton Live on On Sunday, Public Safety Secretary Bill Blair said acquiring a negative test has “proven to be one of the more effective requirements” for travelers and that maintaining the requirement was a recommendation from Canada’s public health agency.
“Again, we continue to evaluate it and we will look at the experience of other jurisdictions. But right now it has been a very effective protection for Canadians,” Blair told CBC chief correspondent Rosemary Barton. He noted that some provinces are “very concerned” that people coming to Canada are doing so safely because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The requirement for molecular testing has become a major concern since the United States announced it would reopen the land border for fully vaccinated travelers on November 8th.
Currently, Canadians can fly to the United States as long as they have a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours of departure — including a much cheaper and more readily available antigen test.
However, in order to return to Canada, Canadians must provide a negative molecular test within 72 hours of departure. Some PCR tests commonly used by travelers can cost more than $ 139 US. Other forms of molecular testing, such as a NAAT test, are also accepted.
Still, Blair said he expected “some pretty significant” increases in the number of travelers when the new rules go into effect.
Encourages completion of the test requirement
Groups and individuals on both sides of the border have called for test rules to be simplified or dropped to facilitate travel for vaccinated people.
“Testing is redundant,” the New York Rep. Brian Higgins on Wednesday.
The requirement can be particularly stressful for day trips south of the border, which typically make up nearly half of all travel to the United States, according to Statistics Canada data. Blair said this week that the government would accept tests conducted in Canada for re-entry as long as they fell within the 72-hour window.
U.S. border officials, such as Higgins, have insisted on the need to reopen the land border and encourage travel.
In a separate interview it Rosemary Barton Live, North Dakota Congressman Kelly Armstrong said he hoped the reopening of the border would rejuvenate communities dependent on cross-border travel.
“I hope it’s hassle free and everything is better than nothing,” he said.
Canada reopened its border with fully vaccinated Americans in August, but the United States has not followed suit before the announcement this month.
“Frustrating is an understatement,” when it comes to describing that delay, Armstrong said, which had significant consequences.
“We have, I mean, 650,000 plus visits a year. In my old hometown, Grand Forks, ND, about 25 percent of our sales come from Canadian residents,” he said.
Armstrong reiterated the idea that fully vaccinated Canadians should ease test requirements to enable hassle-free travel.
“Lifting the restrictions will not work if it turns into a 37-minute stop every time,” he said.
“I think we’re trying to make the perfect for the good enemy, and it just does not work for our economies,” he added, suggesting to be fully vaccinated, and a negative quick test should suffice.
Border communities are waiting
Border communities have been hit hard by the end of the most cross-border traffic during the pandemic. In Point Roberts, the small slice of U.S. territory on a peninsula south of the Vancouver subway, merchant Ali Hayton said 75 percent of her regular business came from Canada.
She said she was “excited” about the border reopening, but she still has some concerns.
“We’re still dealing with the issue of Canadians needing the negative test when they get home. It’s going to affect a lot of our day tourists, but … I’m taking everything I can get at this point. So I’m really, really glad they made that decision, ”she said.
Hayton said she had only survived thanks to help from the state and county governments and by adapting her store.
Removing the test would help get things back to normal, she said.
“Ninety percent of Point Roberts residents are vaccinated. Canada, British Columbia, especially these people, their vaccination rates are high. So I think I add the $ 200 test every time someone wants to come down and buy gas or fetching a packet or grabbing a gallon of milk is really unaffordable for many people. “
You can watch full episodes of Rosemary Barton Live at CBC Gem, CBC’s streaming service.