Calls to simplify or drop testing requirement for recreational travellers coming back to Canada grow

With the U.S. reopening its border to fully vaccinated Canadians crossing by land next month, calls for Canada to drop its requirement for a negative test to get back in are getting louder.

'The U.S. has done it quite conveniently,' says Windsor doctor

Right now, recreational travellers returning from the U.S. must show a negative COVID-19 test result from within 72 hours. (Rebecca Cook/Reuters)

With the U.S. reopening its border to fully vaccinated Canadians crossing by land next month, calls for Canada to drop its requirement for a negative test to get back in are getting louder.

U.S. officials announced their reopening intentions late Tuesday, though there are still details to be worked out.

Proof of vaccination may be required when entering the U.S., but proof of a negative test is only required to get back into Canada.

"Testing is redundant," New York Rep. Brian Higgins, a Democrat, said Wednesday.

"It will lead to a lot of Canadians that will be reluctant to come into the United States.… There's a cost associated with that. It's also an additional administrative step that I think is unnecessary."

WATCH | Travel doctor explains border tests to CBC Windsor: 

How to test for border crossing

3 months ago
Duration 1:36
With the U.S. border reopening next month, CBC's Jacob Barker spoke with Dr. Bart Kaczmarek about testing to cross the border. 1:36

There are fears the testing requirement could impact the number of Canadian tourists.

According to data from Statistics Canada, day trips comprised nearly half of all Canadian travel to the U.S. in 2019 — and two-thirds of trips taken by car.

The current Canadian testing requirements make that difficult.

To enter Canada, recreational travellers need to provide evidence of a COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours of entry. It can't be a rapid antigen test, but rather must be a molecular test.

Confusion about tests

Dr. Bart Kaczmarek, medical director of the Safe Travels Clinic in Windsor, said there is a lot of confusion among travellers and thinks rules around testing should be simpler.

He also said Canada's neighbours to the south are using antigen tests, which makes things simpler. 

Dr. Bart Kaczmarek opens a COVID-19 test kit. (Darrin Di Carlo/CBC)

"So the U.S. has done it quite conveniently. They accept any of the two tests. PCR is a test that they accept, which is the more expensive and more time-consuming test to get results," he said.

"But they also, at the same time, accept a rapid antigen test, which is the 15 minute in-office test, which is considerably less pricey. And maybe most importantly, results are there pretty quickly. So patients don't have to worry."

Kaczmarek said if Canadians are making a short trip to the U.S., they could get tested before they leave and use that result to get back in.

"So if you are able to return within 72 hours of the first test, you could be able to use one test from here to cross both sides of the border," he said.

"Just for a quick over the border hop, they go back and forth one test. That's convenient."

More from CBC Windsor:

With files from Jacob Barker and Alexander Panetta


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