As the US reopens its border, some are asking: Can Canada relax these testing requirements?


This article is part of Watching Washington, a regular report from CBC News correspondents covering US politics and developments affecting Canadians.

What’s new

The US is in the process of opening its land border to non-essential travel. And there is no need for visitors to submit a COVID-19 negative test. proof of vaccination is sufficient.

Call on Canada to apply the same standard.

Members of the US Congress will write letters to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Members of Parliament asking Canada to end mandatory testing for vaccinated travelers.

The hassle of getting tested will deter people from exercising their restored right to travel across borders, a member of Congress said.

New York Democrat Brian Higgins said proof of vaccination should be enough.

“Tests are superfluous,” he said on Wednesday. “It will make many Canadians reluctant to travel to the United States. … That comes at a cost. It is also an additional administrative step that I consider unnecessary. “

What is the context

These calls to end the test requirements have one primary objective: to be attractive more Canadian travelers. Same day trips make up a large percentage of Canada’s trips to the United States.

Corresponding Statistics Canada dataIn 2019, day trips made up nearly half of all Canadian trips to the U.S. – and two-thirds of all trips by car.

Current Canadian testing requirements make this difficult.

To enter Canada, leisure travelers must demonstrate a COVID-19 test within 72 hours of departure. It cannot be a rapid antigen test, it can be must be a molecular test.

It takes one to two days to get these results from a leading US pharmacy chain and may cost $ 139 per sample.

This is an issue for frontier communities most dependent on day travel, such as Buffalo, NY, which Higgins represents in Congress.

US Congressman Brian Higgins says the testing requirements undermine a key message at this stage of the pandemic: that vaccines work well. (House TV on The Associated Press)

Point Roberts, Washington, is another notable case.

The lack of travel on the same day has devastated the economy of this community. The city relies on people from the Vancouver area to visit the coast, eat at a restaurant, and buy some groceries or gasoline before returning to Canada.

Brian Calder, the head of the local Chamber of Commerce, says he feared the new travel rules won’t mean much unless Canada relaxes its rules.

The tiny community only has two testing clinics a week, Calder said. It takes more than a day and costs $ 150 to get the results.

“[Canadians] don’t come down [with these rules]“He told CBC News.

What’s next

Overland recreational travel to the United States will resume next month, the White House has announced.

Travelers are required to provide proof of vaccination, but a White House official said, “No, there will be no compulsory testing.”

Higgins said members of Congress would write to Trudeau and other MPs asking them to adopt the more lenient U.S. rule on testing.

Canada’s Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland says Canadian and US officials are still working on cross-border travel details. (Patrick Doyle / Reuters)

He said authorities are undermining their own message that vaccines work well by introducing additional requirements beyond vaccination.

Will Canada heed calls to relax testing requirements?

Ottawa says nothing about this for the time being. A Canadian official said there was no news about the testing requirements.

Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland said the longer-term rules have not yet been finalized. During a trip to Washington on Wednesday, she repeated the same answer when asked by reporters about the test rules in French and English.

“We are working on clarifying and finalizing all the details with our American partners,” said Freeland.

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