Canada to ‘phase-in’ easing of border testing requirement

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(WIVB) — Canada is ready to relax the testing rule for its own citizens returning home when they visit the U.S.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke with American politicians about this decision during a meeting in Washington Wednesday.

Congressman Brian Higgins was among those Trudeau met with. He says the meeting went well, but more work must be done to make things easier to travel between the borders.

“This needs to be over. The testing mandate is unpleasant, it’s inconvenient, it’s costly and, more importantly, for the fully vaccinated it’s unnecessary,” Higgins said.

Canadian officials are expected to announce new plans for the border by the end of this week, and that changes to the testing requirement will come in phases. The first phase would eliminate the mandate for Canadian citizens.

“Over the course of the last 20 months, we’ve lost probably nearly a billion dollars in total economic impact from the loss of Canadian travelers, so this truly gets rid of a big barrier,” said Visit Buffalo Niagara President Patrick Kaler.

At this point, Trudeau as not announced when Canada will ease the testing requirement for Americans crossing the Northern border.

“Both the United States and Canada – Western New York and Southern Ontario – benefit because our economies are deeply integrated. Our life qualities are deeply integrated,” Higgins said. “I will be satisfied when we get back to a sense of normalcy, when we have a consistent policy, when we have both the United States and Canada speaking with one voice.”

Earlier this week, Sen. Charles Schumer sent the Canadian government a joint letter with Senators Amy Klobuchar, Susan Collins and Mike Crapo. In it, they asked Canada to help address the challenges at the border created by testing requirements.

The text of the letter can be read below:

“Dear Minister Joly:

As the northern U.S. border opens to vaccinated travelers and tourism this week, we commend the Canadian government for its early and consistent efforts to fully reopen the U.S.-Canada border. While there is much to celebrate, we ask that the Canadian government help address the challenges created by coronavirus (COVID-19) testing requirements that could slow travel between the U.S. and Canada.

We have heard from constituents that the testing protocols required by the Canadian government to enter the country will make it very costly for individuals to travel between our two nations. Currently, the Canadian government requires vaccinated travelers entering the country to take a pre-arrival molecular COVID-19 test, which can be costly. This expense could discourage tourism and will be prohibitively expensive for individuals who regularly travel across our northern border, including those in Minnesota, Maine, Idaho, and New York. 

While some travelers may have access to free or discounted tests, the timing of test results will prove challenging to navigate. We applaud the steps Canada has taken to ease cross border travel restrictions and urge the Canadian government to now remove testing requirements for vaccinated travelers and to engage with U.S. authorities regarding any concerns. It is important for both of our nations’ economies that fully vaccinated individuals are able to travel between Canada and the U.S. with ease.

Thank you for your attention to this important issue.”

Letter sent to the Canadian government

Marlee Tuskes is a reporter who has been part of the News 4 team since 2019. See more of her work here.

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