SIMS: No reason to wait two weeks to remove cross-border COVID tests

Please tell me the federal government’s timeline to end COVID-19 testing at airports and border crossings is an elaborate April Fool’s joke.

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Please tell me the federal government’s timeline to end COVID-19 testing at airports and border crossings is an elaborate April Fool’s joke.

If not, then I have lost all faith that Ottawa cares to understand the frustrations simmering in border communities, in the failing tourism industry and among fully vaccinated travellers.

Unofficial reports leaked in Ottawa on Wednesday that the federal government has finally come to its senses and is expected to announce on Thursday that it will stop requiring people entering Canada to produce a negative molecular PCR or rapid COVID antigen test. -19.

But there is a catch. The end of testing will not begin until April 1. And this is nonsense.

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Of course, this is great news for all those vacationing snowbirds heading home in April. But for everyone else — border towns, spring break, and anyone else wanting to travel this month — you’ll need to find a test, pay for a test that can cost between $80 and $200, and get the results before you can head home. the House.

It will be two weeks after Ontario drops its face mask mandate and long after most regions have relaxed almost all COVID-19 protocols.

The proposed postponement has the heads of mayors in Ontario’s border towns nodding, ignored by the federal government despite their vocal lobbying last month.

“What’s the point of waiting two more weeks?” asked Niagara Falls Mayor Jim Diodati, who has been watching his town’s tourism industry crumble for two years.

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“Why would you do that? Please explain it. And no one can. There is no explanation.”

Like many residents of border towns, Diodati describes the two Niagara Falls as “a single city divided by an international border.” But the pandemic and the government’s border policies have caused huge disruption.

This has been doubly bad for Niagara Falls as it relies heavily on tourist traffic, with 50% of its tourist revenue coming from the United States.

“We are the number one leisure destination in Canada. There are 40,000 people who work in tourism and rely on tourism to feed their families, pay their mortgages, pay their rent, their car payments, and that has been snuffed out. And it was such a flippant response. It has been so frustrating without justification,” Diodati said.

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“It seems that decisions are made six hours away from the border. It is very frustrating.

Americans across the Niagara River are completely puzzled, he said. Some US media asked Diodati if trucking convoys delayed dropping the testing requirement, hoping that might be a simple explanation.

“They are laughing at us in the United States. They think we’re some kind of autocratic state and we have to make these kinds of decisions. . . I have no justification. I can not explain it. I’m embarrassed,” he said.

Meanwhile, Diodati pointed out that public health experts have said travel is no more risky than any other activity during the Omicron wave and that community spread accounts for 99% of all infections.

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Only private testing labs and pharmacies across the border, which collect information from fully vaccinated Canadian travelers, will applaud the delay. Diodati said politics are not there for security, “but they make people very rich.”

“It’s a total mess. You might as well burn the money. Make a big campfire and burn some money,” he said.

Sarnia Mayor Mike Bradley said the federal government will receive praise for finally deciding to conduct border testing and acknowledging that the requirements are onerous and outdated.

“But why and how they do it will now become the issue. . . Tell us a legitimate reason why you cannot (end testing requirements) tomorrow night,” he said. “If they have a legitimate reason to continue, they should speak up and say what it is.”

I hope Wednesday’s leak from the government is a trial balloon for the government to gauge public opinion before bringing forward the date to drop the policy.

It would take a stroke of the pencil to do it before the weekend. This would be helpful for families returning home after March Break. And, as Bradley suggested, “a St. Patrick’s Day gift to the country.”

But no one is holding their breath.

“I learned a long time ago not to try to figure out how Ottawa works,” Bradley said. “If I did, I would be a very rich man.”

Drop the tests. Today.

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