Feds drop PCR test requirement for U.S. trips under 72 hours

CANADA – In a much anticipated move, the Canadian government announced Friday, Nov. 19 that beginning Tuesday, Nov. 30, it will be dropping the PCR test requirement for all those re-entering Canada from the United States if their trip was less than 72 hours.

“Effective November 30, 2021, fully vaccinated individuals with right of entry to Canada who depart and re-enter the country within 72 hours of leaving Canada will not have to present a pre-entry molecular test,” states a press release from the Public Health Agency of Canada.

“This exemption is only for trips originating in Canada taken by fully vaccinated Canadian citizens, permanent residents or individuals registered under the Indian Act, who depart and re-enter by land or by air and can demonstrate that they have been away from Canada for less than 72 hours.”

The statement goes on to say children under 12 remain exempt, as do those with medical conditions which prevent vaccination.

The list of approved vaccines will also be updated to match those to which the World Health Organization (WHO) has given emergency use approval.

“It will be tremendously beneficial for families in border communities like New Brunswick Southwest,” said Southwest NB MP, John Williamson in a Facebook post, “and a significant step toward normalcy for cross-border communities and families.”

Williamson has spoken out against the PCR testing requirement since Canada opened its border to the U.S.

“I worked hard in recent weeks to publicly highlight the insanity of Ottawa’s current testing policy,” said the Facebook post, “which allowed people to take a PCR test before crossing to Maine and use those test results to return home.

“This did nothing to keep anyone safe. I also communicated this information to the federal government for consideration.”

The Courier did reach out to Williamson for further comment, but was unable to connect with him due to the House sitting as of Monday, Nov. 22.

The feds also announced beginning January 15, 2022, groups which have previously been exempt from entry requirements will now have to be fully vaccinated to enter Canada. The groups include:

• individuals travelling to reunite with family (unvaccinated children under 18 years of age will retain exemption if travelling to reunite with an immediate or extended family member who is a Canadian, permanent resident, or person registered under the Indian Act);

• international students who are 18 years old and older;

• professional and amateur athletes;

• individuals with a valid work permit, including temporary foreign workers (outside of those in agriculture and food processing); and

• essential service providers, including truck drivers

The impact on New Brunswick of this new restriction could be significant, with many families living across the U.S. border, much of the provincial agriculture industry relying on temporary foreign workers, the level of essential service providers who cross the border daily, and the number of international students the province endeavours to entice annually.

“The upcoming changes to Canada’s border testing and entry requirements reflect the next stage in our government’s approach as we align with the improving vaccination rates both here in Canada and around the world,” said Canada’s Minister of Health, Jean-Yves Duclos in a statement. “The situation at our borders remains closely monitored, with officials and experts continuing their work to evaluate the measures in place and recommend necessary adjustments as required.”

Canadians will continue to be required to log their travel via the ArriveCAN app, and travellers must load their proof of vaccination into the app up to 72 hours prior to making their trip.

New QR codes which are digital proof of vaccination are now available to New Brunswickers as the result of a program developed federally to create a uniform proof of vaccination. Simply go to MyHealthNB to create an account and follow the steps.