Canadian border measures are finally loosening for certain travellers
Though Canadians have technically been able to fly into the U.S. throughout the pandemic, border measures like mandatory quarantine periods and COVID-19 testing upon departure and/or return — along with earlier directives not to embark on non-essential travel at all — have made things complicated.
In June, the federal government did away with its controversial hotel quarantine program that applied to all air passengers coming from international destinations, instead permitting fully vaccinated Canadian citizens and permanent residents to skip not only the three-day hotel stay, but the 14-day quarantine completely.
The on-arrival COVID tests associated with the program were also nixed, though proof of negative a pre-departure molecular test remained necessary for both vaxxed and unvaxxed Canadians, as well as inoculated foreign nationals, who were allowed back into the country starting Aug. 9 (for U.S. residents) and Sept. 7 (for all other international visitors).
But, getting an acceptable molecular test such as the PCR overseas has proven to be a stressful and costly feat for travellers to frantically figure out within the three days before their flight back into Canada.
Be alert to PCR test requirements if traveling to Canada. Had to cancel our trip because an early Tuesday Air Canada flight made it impossible to get lab results 72 hours before flying. No weekend lab work in Bend. Frustrating as already have a third shot.— jwowenuk (@TheOwenTake) September 11, 2021
Thankfully, after many calls to do so, Ottawa has finally decided to somewhat loosen the requirement.
Anonymous insider sources have now confirmed to the CBC and multiple other news networks that the government will be getting rid of the molecular testing requirement — but only in select situations.
It is only Canadian citizens and permanent residents who are taking quick trips of less than 72 hours who will be allowed to, instead of a molecular test, opt for the cheaper and quicker rapid antigen test and show those negative results in order to return, as of the end of the month.
Feds expected to announce its dropping the need for negative PCR to return to Canada for US trips less than 72 hours.— Brittany Greenslade (@BrittAtGlobal) November 17, 2021
If you travel more than 72 hours outside of Canada, you will still need a negative PCR test upon return. https://t.co/FWit9Usb3A
All foreign nationals and Canadians coming back from a longer stay will still have to complete a molecular test up to three days before their flight into Canada, despite the fact that multiple premiers are among those calling for a broader switch to the antigen test.
The government should lift PCR test for all. This policy doesn't make sense. Who have 72 hours trip? The $200 test fee was earned by other countries, not Canada.— Sue (@websusan) November 17, 2021
While PCR tests can run upwards of $300 U.S. and can have a turnaround time of many days for results, rapid antigen tests cost as little as $20, with results available within minutes.
They are also more widely available and easier to access and schedule than a PCR test in places where they are commonly used, like the states.
Currently, for Canadians entering America, a negative rapid antigen test result is acceptable, and the test is easy to book at your local pharmacy here at home. Proof of vaccination is also required.
Some frequent flyers have, through trial and error, found ways to get PCR tests down south for free, though some methods might require tricking the system as far as a social security number, U.S. driver's license and address, and/or proof of health insurance is concerned.
People have found luck at testing clinics set up by local health departments, and at pharmacy chains such as CVS, Walgreens and Walmart. Results for these tests still take usually between one and three days to come in, which can be tense given the requirement for the test to be taken a maximum of three days before departure.
The full announcement about the new rule for trips under 72 hours is expected from the feds on Friday.
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