Windsor

Day trips to Detroit are back. Windsorites share mixed views on crossing over

As of Tuesday, fully vaccinated Canadian travellers can cross the Canada-U.S. land border and return back into Canada without showing proof of a negative COVID-19 test for trips less than 72 hours.

Negative COVID-19 test requirement removed for fully vaxxed Canadians taking short trips

Windsor resident Matt Bouwmeester has waited 20 months to make the 11 minute driver over to his favourite pizza place in Detroit. Other errands on his day trip list? Groceries and gas. (Jennifer La Grassa/CBC)

U.S. groceries, gas and Detroit pizza is what Windsorite Matt Bouwmeester has waited 20 months for. 

On Tuesday, he can have it all. 

"It's a big city and we're a small city. We get the big city amenities over there and being locked out of there for [almost] two years has been really hard," he said, adding that PizzaPapalis is the first place he's going to on the weekend. 

As of Tuesday, fully vaccinated Canadian travellers can cross the Canada-U.S. land border and return back into Canada without showing proof of a negative COVID-19 test for trips less than 72 hours.

While it may seem unusual for Bouwmeester to cross a border just to get some of life's daily necessities, these are the sorts of trips some Windsorites used to do without a second thought. But that all changed when the border closed to non-essential travellers in March 2020 due to the pandemic.

Many people haven't been across the border since then to go to some of their favourite stores, restaurants, music and sport venues.

And while the border technically reopened to fully vaccinated Canadians on Nov. 8, anyone returning to Canada needed to show proof of a negative COVID-19 test. This additional requirement deterred some people as tests could cost as much as $200. 

Two weeks later, the Canadian government announced that it would remove the testing requirement for fully vaccinated Canadian travellers on Nov. 30 who want to take short trips. 

And while Bouwmeester is ready to safely get back to his old routine, not everyone feels it's the right time. 

Amherstburg resident Anne Brousseau said with COVID-19 cases rising once again, she doesn't think the loosened border measures are a "good idea." 

"I really think that they're probably jumping the gun a little bit on this," Brousseau said, adding that while she understands vaccines can help, it's not worth the risk of catching the virus for a night out. 

Cabs prepare for increase in service 

Though short trips are a possibility again, Transit Windsor's tunnel bus service is still not operating. In October, Transit Windsor said it would review this decision if the COVID-19 test gets dropped, but the city's website still notes that the route is suspended until "further notice." 

In light of this and the possibility for short evening or day trips, Vets Cab union chairperson Marwan Abouzeeni said drivers are preparing for a spike in customers wanting to cross the border for a night out. 

Marwan Abouzeeni, chairperson of Vets Cab union, says his drivers are prepared for an increase in service to accommodate cross-border travels. (Jason Viau/CBC)

"We always want to see people going and coming, that's part of our business, if they're not moving, we're not moving. So we're always anticipating that it's going to be busy and we're ready for it," said Abouzeeni, who is also the vice-president of Unifor Local 195. 

While the tunnel bus fare was only $5 one way, Abouzeeni said Vets Cab will start at $16.50 — $6.50 for tunnel fare and a $10 cross-border fee. Depending on the location and  tunnel traffic, Abouzeeni said the price could go up from there. 

He said most of his drivers are prepared to cross the border into the United States, but he is hearing that some are worried about the new COVID-19 variant, omicron

And while Bouwmeester said he understands the concerns, he's planning to do the same safety measures he does here, such as masking and handwashing. 

"I'm just excited to see the people," he said.

"I'm excited to see the Detroiters again. I'm excited to hit up some concerts. I'm excited to watch the Lions lose." 

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