There could be lineups at Canada’s 117 border crossings with the U.S. Monday, as non-essential travellers now have to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken in the last 72 hours.
It’s the next phase of Ottawa’s new travel restrictions, which came into effect on February 15. Travellers by land are required to show the results of their COVID-19 test. Negative tests need to have been taken within three days of the scheduled arrival at the border, but those permitted to enter the country can also present a positive COVID-19 test, as long as it was taken 14 to 90 days prior to arriving at the border.
All visitors or returning residents still have to quarantine for 14 days after crossing into the country.
Although the need to present test results could slow down proceedings at the border, 93 per cent of drivers will be waved through, as essential workers such as truck drivers and medical staff are exempt from the new restrictions.
Some are saying these new restrictions don’t go far enough.
“Who is more of a threat? A trucker who travelled through 14 states, who slept in his truck, and eat[s] at truck stops, or just two people travelling in Canada?” said CTV News Public Safety Analyst Chris Lewis. “So that’s all very confusing to me.”
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau insists the new requirements will make a difference.
“These border measures will help stop the spread of COVID-19 and new variants,” he said in Ottawa on Friday.
But health experts aren’t so sure, pointing to five different variants now circulating in the U.S.
“It’s not going to keep the virus out,” Kelley Lee, a professor at the Simon Fraser University, told CTV News. “We know that people often need to be tested multiple times before the virus is detected in their system. We know there are false negatives, we also know people can be exposed during those 72 hours.”
Those who do not provide a negative test or other accepted proof at the border face fines up to $3,000.
Starting on Feb. 22, non-essential travellers will also be required to take a COVID-19 test at the border as well as at the end of their 14-day quarantine.
The Canadian Armed Forces may assist with the testing sites at 16 border crossings, but there are few details.
“I don’t think [the] government has specifically said what their role will be, but the military have the ability from a logistical perspective to provide supplies, set up facilities,” Lewis said.
The pandemic has been hard on those who are separated from loved ones by the border.
Jennifer Bignell lives near Quebec City. She says the ongoing border closure has taken a toll on her family, as her partner is American and lives in the U.S. She hasn’t seen him or his children in Vermont in nearly a year.
“In my case, I just feel like the pandemic has just stolen the very little time we have together already and that’s time I can never get back,” Bignell told CTV News.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says some Canadians can apply for a special exception to the new rules and that border officials will assess each person on a case-by-case basis.