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PCR test policy at border ‘actively being looked at,’ Tam says

Click to play video: 'Pressure growing on federal government to lift Canada’s PCR test requirement for travelers' Pressure growing on federal government to lift Canada’s PCR test requirement for travelers
WATCH: Pressure growing on federal government to lift Canada's PCR test requirement for travelers – Oct 15, 2021

Test requirements for travellers vaccinated against COVID-19 at the Canadian border need to be re-examined, particularly for short trips, says the country’s top doctor.

On Friday the Canadian Border Services Agency reiterated the testing requirements for vaccinated travellers entering Canada in advance of the border with the United States reopening next week.

But that policy is being “actively looked at,” said chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam.

“Just to reassure everybody … we are looking at that quite carefully,” she told a briefing Friday.

Read more: PCR travel tests remain because Canada’s not ‘out of the woods yet,’ Tam says

Currently, anyone crossing into Canada needs to provide a recent, molecular test that shows a negative result for COVID-19.

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At a cost of $150 to $300 per test, that can be a pricey proposition, particularly for families

Critics have been especially frustrated with the policy for short trips across the U.S. border, which allows travellers to get tested in Canada before spending up to 72 hours in U.S. and then presenting their negative Canadian test to re-enter the country.

“I’m not sure I understand the rationale for testing travellers who are going to the U.S. for a very short trip,” said Dr. Irfan Dhalla, co-chair of a federal advisory panel on COVID-19 testing and screening.

Click to play video: 'Why Canada is still requiring PCR tests for international travellers' Why Canada is still requiring PCR tests for international travellers
Why Canada is still requiring PCR tests for international travellers – Oct 16, 2021

“Even if we were going to require tests from these travellers, a test taken in Canada, before the trip even starts, would not be helpful.”

If the concern is that the traveller might become infected in the United States, it would make more sense to take a test a few days after returning to Canada, given the incubation period of the virus, he said.

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The policy was initially intended to reduce transmission on either side of the border, and save people in border communities from having to take a test in the U.S. during a short jaunt, according to Tam.

“But I do think that all this needs to be re-examined, as we are doing with all of the border measures moving ahead,” she said.

Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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