Sims: Only vultures benefit from Canada’s cross-border COVID test

The Canadian border agent only needed a quick look at my negative COVID-19 rapid test result taken just 15 minutes earlier across the border in the United States.

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The Canadian border agent only needed a quick look at my negative COVID-19 rapid test result taken just 15 minutes earlier across the border in the United States.

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I was in the US over the weekend and waited until Monday to come back so I wouldn’t have to pay for a full PCR molecular test which can cost over $200. I wanted the much cheaper rapid test, good for 24 hours and accepted from this week.

But even that was a blow to the wallet. The rapid test – which is not the convenient at-home model but must be administered and reviewed by a medical professional – costs US$65 or approximately Canadian $83.

“Vultures,” muttered the border agent after acknowledging where I had been tested and before allowing me – a fully vaccinated and boosted Canadian – to enter my own country.

Therefore, I return to a nagging question: why does the federal government still require fully vaccinated cross-border land travelers to have a negative COVID-19 test to enter Canada?

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This is such a contradiction to what has been happening, since Tuesday, in Ontario, where almost all pandemic restrictions and capacity requirements have been declared over, with the exception of face masks. The decision to enforce vaccine passports is left to institutions and individual companies.

However, little has changed at the border. To enter the United States, a full vaccination is required. To go home is a full vaccination plus a negative test, which must be completed on the US side. Don’t get me wrong – there are creative entrepreneurs making a killing about it.

It’s been a thorn in the side of border communities since Canada reopened its land border in August. The requirement was briefly dropped in December after sharp lobbying, but was reinstated once the Omicron wave arrived.

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As cases began to drop, a new policy was unveiled last month. A test is still required to enter Canada, but it could be a rapid test. The decision was seen as a good start and there was a promise of a review of the policy at the end of March.

But since then, given how quickly restrictions are falling and Omicron’s grip is loosening, the testing requirement has become an albatross. After a press conference late last week with tourism officials, mayors of border towns prepared a letter on Tuesday asking Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to drop border testing this week.

“In March, Canadians will soon see NHL games at full capacity with 20,000 fans without any testing requirements. The fully vaccinated American tourist will not be able to cross the border in their own family car without an unnecessary and costly test administered by a medical professional,” they wrote.

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“This nonsense will undermine Canadians’ trust in all levels of government. . . . Your government acted quickly to put these measures in place and your government must act quickly to remove them in these early days of March. »

Sarnia Mayor Mike Bradley shown in a file photo standing under the Blue Water Bridge in Point Edward.  (Paul Morden/The Observer)
Sarnia Mayor Mike Bradley shown in a file photo standing under the Blue Water Bridge in Point Edward. (Paul Morden/The Observer)

Sarnia Mayor Mike Bradley said he recognizes the federal government currently has pressing issues to deal with, particularly with the international crisis in Ukraine. But governments should know how to walk and chew gum at the same time, he said, and this border problem could be solved quickly.

“If you really want to send a good signal about democracy, you can juggle multiple things at once and do them as well as you can,” Bradley said.

“What is the rationale? You don’t have to deconstruct anything. You can do it this afternoon if you want to do it.

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There’s a good argument to be made that while everyone has taken an economic hit, border communities, many of which depend on tourism and some hit by anti-restriction blockades, have suffered more than others.

Removing the testing requirement would help Canada’s ailing tourism industry get back on its feet. And for Canadians, ending the requirement would help ease the stress on fully vaccinated people who have to find a US testing center, book an appointment, take the test, and then cross their fingers that the result comes back in time for go back home.

“There is this Monty Python aspect. It just doesn’t make sense. It’s ridiculous,” Bradley said. “As people on the front lines in border towns, (we say) it’s time to end it and end it now.”

Perhaps the federal government should be reminded that March Break is almost here – a time when families are looking to travel. And think about that huge flock of Canadian snowbirds heading north.

The time has come to dispatch the vultures. Drop the test.

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