Coronavirus: New Brunswick truck driver questions lack of testing at border crossing

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WATCH: A New Brunswick truck driver says he was refused entry into a bank branch on Thursday because he has crossed the broder into the United States during the COVID-19 outbreak. As Tim Roszell reports, he believes truckers could get stuck in neutral as essential workers still try to live their lives – Mar 26, 2020

As a truck driver, Sean Gillis is one of the only Canadians who’s still allowed to cross borders during the COVID-19 pandemic. But he says he didn’t realize that would prevent him from going about his daily life.

On Thursday morning, Gillis was scheduled for an appointment at a TD Bank branch on Saint John’s east side.

That didn’t happen.

“They’re screening,” explains Gillis, “and they wanted to know if we’d been outside the country.

“I said, ‘well, I’m a truck driver. I go stateside but we’re exempt, we’re essential services.’ and he said ‘well, you can’t come in here.'”

Gillis says he was not offered the alternative for a phone meeting or to reschedule.

“He tried to get me out of the bank as quickly as possible,” he says.

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“Told me to leave.”

READ MORE: Trump looking to put troops near Canadian border amid coronavirus fears

Carla Hindman, manager of Coporate and Public Affairs for TDm says they’ll be reaching out to Gillis to find a way to make his appointment happen.

“We are reaching out to this customer,” says Hindman. “I’m hoping that we’re going to find a way to resolve the needs that they have.”

For Gillis, who’s been in the U.S. as recently as a few days ago, the precaution is understandable, but frustrating.

“I take this seriously,” he says. “I could be a carrier, who knows?”

Which, for Gillis, raises the question: why aren’t he and his colleagues being tested as they cross the borders?

READ MORE: Coronavirus: Atlantic Provinces Trucking Association wants clarity on new border rules

“It’s hypocritical, what these governments are doing,” Gillis says.

He says he’s asked questions about how he’s feeling and what contacts he’s made that may have returned from outside of Canada and the U.S., but actual testing is not being done and personal protective equipment is not being supplied.

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“I understand that we’ve got to get the goods down to the American side,” he says, “but I think our health is important too.”

Public health has said that workers in sectors such as transportation should practice social distancing and closely self-monitor for coronavirus symptoms.

Gillis adds that, in his experience, screening for symptoms of COVID-19 is much more relaxed when coming into Canada than when crossing the other direction.

“The Canadian side isn’t even asking how we’re feeling or anything like that,” he says.

“It’s an easy way to spread the virus when truck drivers aren’t being tested.”

With files from Tim Roszell.

Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

Health officials caution against all international travel. Returning travellers are legally obligated to self-isolate for 14 days, beginning March 26, in case they develop symptoms and to prevent spreading the virus to others. Some provinces and territories have also implemented additional recommendations or enforcement measures to ensure those returning to the area self-isolate.

Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.

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To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out.

For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.