Canadians returning from short U.S. trips won’t need PCR test for COVID-19: Source
Canada is to announce on Friday that it is no longer obliging travellers returning from U.S. trips of 72 hours or less to take PCR tests
OTTAWA – Fully vaccinated Canadians who leave the country for under 72 hours will soon no longer need to pony up hundreds of dollars for a negative PCR test to return home, according to sources.
Full details of the policy changes are expected to be officially announced as early as Friday and will likely be welcomed with a sigh of relief by Canadian travellers, business groups and municipalities close to the American border.
The loosening of re-entry testing requirements are not expected to change for Canadians who leave the country for over three days, are not fully vaccinated, or for foreign travellers visiting Canada, according to government sources speaking on background.
As of now, all Canadian residents who travel abroad need to present a negative PCR COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours of re-entering the country in order to be allowed through the border, regardless of vaccination status.
But those tests can be costly, with some Canadians having reported paying up to $300 for a PCR analysis. They can also take up to 48 hours for results to be delivered and are far less readily available internationally compared to antigen rapid tests.
Recently, the Liberal government has come increasingly under pressure from both American and Canadian officials and travellers to drop the requirement for Canadians who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, particularly for short cross-border trips.
For example, top American officials wrote to Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly last week demanding that her government do away with the PCR test requirement.
“Currently, the Canadian government requires vaccinated travellers 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,” wrote Senators Chuck Schumer, Amy Klobuchar, Susan Collins and Mike Crapo.
According to Perrin Beatty, president and CEO of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, the current PCR test requirement is an “absurdity” and needs to be dropped, alongside many other prohibitive travel requirements currently imposed upon Canadians.
“It’s time for us to apply common sense. Pull the PCR test, it is redundant,” Beatty said in an interview where he noted his support for the upcoming announcement. “We’re the outlier, and other countries don’t use it.”
“At the end of the day, the focus needs to be on whether or not we’re vaccinated, not on having to take expensive tests.”
Multiple government sources insisted Wednesday that some crucial details about the policy change are still on the drawing board, including the exact date that the PCR requirement will be lifted for short travel (currently considered for Nov. 30), or if travellers will be asked to instead show a negative rapid test for re-entry.