Windsor

Uncertainty at the Windsor border as Ottawa promises testing for non-essential travellers

Rapid tests might be the best option, says one border advisor

Posted: February 01, 2021
Last Updated: February 02, 2021

Traffic makes its way to Ambassador Bridge that connects Canada to the United States Windsor Ont. on Friday June 15, 2012. A proposal to charge travellers a new fee when entering the U.S. at land border crossings has drawn condemnation in both countries. (Mark Spowart/Canadian Press)

The federal government's latest plans to require COVID-19 testing for Canada-U.S. land border travellers has Windsor border crossing workers confused and uncertain about what it will mean for them.

On Friday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in the coming weeks, Canada will start requiring non-essential travellers to show proof of a negative test 72 hours before entering the land border with the U.S. But the government has not provided any further details as to what day this will begin and what testing will entail. 

Business owner of Select Tools in Tecumseh, Dave Tomassi, whose workers cross the border quite frequently, said he's confused and unsure how this will work given the volume of people crossing. 

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"We just don't see from a logistics point how you can house that many people in any one given spot at the border and make this work, it just doesn't seem to make sense to us," said Tomassi, whose business provides tools for the automotive industry across North America. 

"We understand the reasoning behind it and in theory it sounds good but from a practicality point of view, we don't see it working," he said. 

Though his workers have been deemed essential, he said there's been the odd time where staff have been stopped and required to quarantine. 

Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) told CBC News that the federal government is still finalizing details around who will require a test, but there will be some exceptions, including commercial truck drivers. 

Meanwhile, the Public Health Agency of Canada told CBC News to expect more details in the coming days. 

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Special advisor Laurie Tannous from the University of Windsor's Cross Border Institute said she anticipates that the new rules won't impact essential workers, but will mean that snowbirds or other travellers returning to Canada might have to be tested.

Business owner of Select Tools in Tecumseh, Dave Tomassi, says he's concerned about what the new land border crossing requirements will be. Tomassi's employees cross the border quite frequently. (Dan Taekema/CBC)

Yet, for the system to work best, she said the government will likely have to start accepting rapid tests. 

"We need to do be able to say we accept that rapid test and that rapid test ... I guess it would have to be at the Canadian customs side or prior even to the crossing and then depending on that result, that would dictate whether or not they would be allowed entry," she said. 

Tannous added that the alternative is people would be allowed to come into Canada, get tested and quarantine in a hotel until they receive their results. 

For now, the CBSA said it is reminding residents that anyone entering Canada right now, including Canadian citizens, must quarantine for 14 days and that optional trips such as those for leisure travel, social visits or recreation are still prohibited.

As for Tomassi, the uncertainty of it all just makes it difficult to plan. 

"It's just a concern about the future of our industry," he said. "What the government is going to impose on us and the big unknowns ...  we just don't have answers as to what the future is going to hold."