Photo: Contributed
Kelowna-Lake Country MP Tracy Gray.

The United States recently reopened its land border to fully vaccinated travellers from Canada. After 20 long months, many Canadians are eager to head south to see friends and family.

If you’re fully vaccinated, the United States doesn’t require you to take a COVID-19 test to enter by land, but when you’re returning from your trip, Canada still requires you to provide a negative molecular test to come home.

There are different kinds of molecular tests but the most commonly referred to is the PCR test, so for simplicity here, I’ll refer to PCR. At a cost of $150 to $300 each, a family of four could be on the hook for testing costs of up to $1,200. I’ve heard from local constituents who have struggled to find a PCR testing location in the United States, with some having to drive two hours to find one with availability. Constituents have also said many testing locations in the U.S. have indicated it may take longer than 72 hours to receive the PCR test results. However, if your test is older than 72 hours when attempting to cross the border back into Canada, it’s considered invalid.

Of course, keeping Canadians safe should be a priority. That being said, the federal government needs to clearly explain why someone who is fully vaccinated needs to take a costly, time-consuming, difficult to find PCR test, instead of a less costly and more readily available rapid antigen test. Rapid antigen tests are commonplace in the U.S., are approved for use in Canada, can provide results within 15 minutes and can be purchased at American pharmacies for as low as $24 USD.

The current requirement to have a negative PCR test adds a costly barrier that many families are saying they simply can’t afford.

During this pandemic, my constituency office has been flooded with numerous residents of the Kelowna-Lake Country riding asking for help to navigate the confusing and continually changing federal public health measures.

This becomes even more difficult when the entry and re-entry requirements between Canada and the United States are at odds.

Figures from the Public Health Agency of Canada show that between Aug. 9 and Oct. 21, 0.18% of Covid-19 tests completed at the border amongst vaccinated travellers were positive. Constituents have asked me what data the government is using to require vaccinated travellers to take the PCR tests when there are cheaper, more readily available, alternatives.

It’s not just travellers speaking up either. Business groups, tourism associations and border-area mayors have also called for the removal of the PCR testing requirement.

Protecting Canadians is a priority but that doesn’t mean that there can’t be room for improvement.

It’s time for the federal government to review the data it is using to put in place Covid-19 safety measures at our borders, while using all the health tools available and acknowledge and respect all the work that has been done to get us to this point.

Are you planning to travel to the U.S. or anywhere else? It’s always best to check the Government of Canada website to get all the most recent updates and requirements here: COVID-19 vaccinated travellers entering Canada – Travel restrictions in Canada – Travel.gc.ca.

As always, please reach out if you have any thoughts, ideas, or concerns on this or anything else, or if you need any assistance with federal services.You can contact [email protected] or 250-470-5075.

If you’d like to stay up to date on my work in both Ottawa and Kelowna-Lake Country, visit tracygraymp.ca to join my newsletter.

This content was originally published here.