Photo By: Wojtek Witkowski from Unsplash

Editor’s Note: This article was written and published before the border testing requirement was removed for those travelling over the border for less than 72 hours.

Many of us (myself included) have been ready for the pandemic to be over for a while. Of course, what that actually means varies wildly between basically everybody.

There have been some calling for the end of all restrictions practically since they began. This is obviously an irresponsible position, as it’s been made clear now that without some of the common sense measures like physical distancing and mask requirements, we would have seen a much higher infection and death rate than what we have seen here in Canada. 

While many are still struggling as a result of the pandemic, be it for financial, health, employment, or any number of other reasons, with vaccines now widely available and administered, the path we have taken to begin the reopening of our economy seems incredibly logical to me. The end of the pandemic seems to be on the horizon, and so with that, we should continue to return to normal life.

Despite largely agreeing with the approach to reopening that’s being taken now, there are certain steps that have been taken that I have issues with. For instance, I don’t think ending pandemic support programs like the CRB was necessary, they should continue for those still in need. I also did not understand the government’s decision back in October to lift gathering limit restrictions on concert and sports venues but not places like gyms.

However, the largest and most baffling mistake I’ve seen in the handling of reopening has to be in regards to the Canada-US land border.

Since Aug. 9, fully vaccinated Americans have been allowed to enter Canada at our land border. While it felt a bit early, I was excited by this announcement simply due to the fact that I figured the US was not far behind from announcing something similar. Of course, in a hilarious twist of irony, the US government cited the high COVID-19 infection rate in Canada as the reason for not reopening the US border to Canadian land travellers as we had for them. I mean, had they seriously not looked in their own backyard? What a joke.

Regardless, it went on, now with more Americans travelling into Canada, but no word on the US land border reopening. That is, until October, when it was announced that the land border would reopen in November, but with no other specifics clarified at the time (like a date or what requirements would be in place). 

A little bit closer to reopening, we got the specifics. While the US would not require proof of a negative COVID-19 test upon entry, they would require proof of vaccination. This seems to make sense, given that being vaccinated greatly reduces the rate of transmission and the severity of infection, so to allow travellers over if they meet the vaccine requirement seems like a common-sense, reasonable safeguard to have in place.

But then there’s Canada.

To return home, regardless of the length of your visit to the US, Canada requires travellers to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours of your return. That’s right, apparently being fully vaccinated is good enough to get you into a foreign country, but not enough for you to go home? Am I missing something? 

Additionally, they only accept PCR tests, which are considerably more expensive than the rapid tests that have hit the market. These can cost well over $100, which frankly makes any short trips completely infeasible. Who’s going to go to the US for an afternoon of shopping and maybe grabbing dinner, when they have an additional $100+ per person charge attached to it? Not many, that’s for sure.

What makes even less sense is that if you are planning on doing a short trip, like under the 72-hour testing requirement, you can actually get your PCR test in Canada, to then show at the border after your trip to the US. That’s right, the test would not show whether you contracted COVID-19 on your trip to the US, only if you had it before you went. So why make people get the test at all? How does this make any sense?

If any thought went into this policy at all, then at the very least the test should be offered for free. In reality, there should be no testing requirement; you should be free to return home at any time of your choosing for any reason, it’s not like you’re a criminal. If you contracted COVID-19 and don’t feel well after coming home, then stay home for 14 days after coming back over the border. Most places already require you to disclose if you have been out of the country in the last 14 days, so why add this redundant and moronic step into the mix?

It seems like it’s meant to offer a big payday to companies like Shoppers Drug Mart, who are offering these exorbitantly priced tests and want nothing more than to have us all getting PCR tests from them before we leave for our weekend getaways. There’s no other logical explanation; it’s a giveaway to private pharmacies and other companies offering these tests.

Hopefully, common sense prevails and this ridiculous requirement is removed. Given that most places require you to quarantine for 14 days after returning home from out of the country, as well as the 72-hour loophole that lets people test themselves for COVID-19 before even being exposed to it in the US, it’s abundantly clear to me that this additional hoop to jump through is government incompetence at best, or a big giveaway to private industry at worst.