VANCOUVER, British Columbia (AP) — The Canadian government’s announcement it is dropping the requirement for vaccinated travelers to show a negative COVID-19 test result to enter the country was greeted with relief by tourism and business groups on both sides of the border Thursday.
Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos said tests will no longer be needed beginning April 1.
Currently, fully vaccinated travelers entering Canada must present proof of a negative result from a professionally administered antigen test. The antigen test replaced the more costly and time-consuming molecular test in February.
Guy Occhiogrosso, president and chief executive officer of the Bellingham Regional Chamber of Commerce in Washington state near the border with British Columbia, said the tests discouraged Canadians crossing into the U.S. for holidays and day shopping trips.
He estimates some local retail businesses saw a 30 per cent drop in business due to a lack of Canadian travelers.
“There have been some border business that have seen catastrophic losses,” he said.
Garry Douglas, president and CEO of the North Country Chamber of Commerce in Plattsburgh, N.Y., said the local region has over 100 Quebec-based businesses that employ 15 per cent of the workforce.
“That has been interrupted over the last two years,” said Douglas. “The U.S.-Canadian economic relationship is one of deep and growing economic integration.
“It’s not about boxes going back and forth. It’s about making things together.”
Beth Potter, president and CEO of the Tourism Industry Association of Canada, said tourism generated CDN$105 billion (US$83.13 billion) and employed nearly two million people in 2019. That revenue has been cut in half over the last two years and over 400,000 jobs were lost.
The current testing requirements were a deterrent for both business and leisure travelers, said Potter.
“It basically delivers the message that Canada was closed and we weren’t open and ready to welcome travelers back to our country,” she said.
“The U.S. traveler is our No. 1 international traveler by sheer volume. Anything we can do to encourage Americans to come back across the border and vacation or do business is a huge part of our industry.”
David Blandford, executive director of State of Washington Tourism, said Canada is the top international tourism market for the state.
“Ease is important in travel,” he said. “These announcements certainly will help that.”
Mark Agnew, senior vice-president of policy and government relations at the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, believes removing the tests will encourage more conferences and conventions being held in Canada.
“Because we’ve reduced another barrier for fully vaccinated travelers it will encourage more business travel from foreign nationals into Canada, which of course is good for the local economy,” he said.
Duclos said the tests are being dropped because of Canada’s high vaccination rates and fewer cases of the virus being detected at the border.
Incoming tourists will still need to be vaccinated to visit Canada, and all inbound travelers must also upload their details to the ArriveCan app.
Vaccinated people could also still be subject to random molecular tests when they arrive at Canadian airports.
Unvaccinated Canadians and other travelers who are exempt from the vaccine mandate will still need to provide a negative rapid antigen or molecular test, or an accepted form of proof of recent infection to enter the country.
Unvaccinated travelers will also be tested on arrival, again eight days later, and will be required to quarantine for 14 days.
Douglas said the pandemic border restrictions were harming the special business and cultural relationship between the two countries.
“This isn’t just about somebody not buying gas on the other side of the border,” he said. “This is actually undermining the very foundation of all aspects of the U.S.-Canada relationship.”
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