Most Canadians agree with a COVID test to drive back from U.S. — unless they plan a trip
A Leger survey finds a deep divide over Canada’s requirement for a COVID-19 molecular test to re-enter across the U.S. land border
Snowbirds anxious to finally drive to their winter destinations may be the first Canadians lining up at U.S. border crossings when they reopen on Nov. 8.
But there’s still one restriction on our books that may pose a challenge to Canadian day-trippers and others wanting a shorter trip out of the country.
While the U.S. has dropped its requirement for an incoming negative COVID test, Canada has yet to rescind its rule that all northbound travellers aged five and older must have taken a COVID-19 molecular test within 72 hours of crossing a land border. That’s in addition to proof of full vaccination.
A Leger survey for the Association for Canadian Studies and Metropolis North America reveals a wide gap between those who want to keep the expensive test in place to prevent potentially infectious cases coming into Canada and those who want it cancelled.
Of the survey respondents who intend to drive south before the end of the year, 68.3 per cent want the re-entry test dropped; of those who intend to stay north of the border, only 26.7 per cent want it dropped.
Travellers’ decision-making will vary depending on their planned length of stay in the U.S. Those looking to overwinter in the sunbelt will not likely be deterred by the re-entry test requirement, but those looking to cross for a shorter term may find the test’s 72-hour response time and its cost — which can run to $200 — dampen their enthusiasm for a quick trip. Rapid antigen tests are not accepted.
“I don’t expect there to be line-ups at the border if the PCR test requirements remain in place,” said Jack Jedwab, president, ACS-Metropolis. “That said, the low cost airlines near the borders in those U.S. towns may regain Canadian customers, (as may) family and friends’ visits over multiple days or long weekends.”
Mayors of border towns who pushed for reopening may find themselves disappointed — “a Pyrrhic victory,” Jedwab calls it — as their areas, which draw many Canadian shoppers, may not benefit much from the reopening as long as the test requirement remains in place.
The value gained by any cross-border purchases, for example, would likely be nullified by the need to wait several days for results or the higher cost of a quicker test
As a result, “the data suggests that there might be a chill (on southbound traffic) as most who intend to travel want the test dropped,” Jedwab says.
“The 72-hour window is an issue,” Jedwab said, but added that “some Canadians are thinking they’ll do the PCR test here prior to their trip, then cross the border and return within that time. It’s a way around (the requirement), but that would defeat the purpose of the mitigation process.”