Hundreds of eager travellers flocked to the Lacolle border crossing Monday morning, causing long wait times as the Canadian-U.S. border reopened after a 20-month closure.
A convoy of RVs, trailers and cars stretched along Highway 15 for several kilometres as Quebec’s snowbirds looked to make the trip down south by land.READ MORE: Pricey COVID-19 test awaits travellers as lanes open Monday at Canada-U.S. land border
As of midnight, non-essential traffic resumed in both directions for the first time since March 2020, when both countries imposed sweeping but selective restrictions in hopes of slowing the spread of the virus — the first widespread border closure since the 9/11 terrorist attacks 20 years ago.
A number of drivers who spoke to Global News say they recorded wait times of up to three hours before seeing a border agent.
“Even though it’s three hours, it’s still faster and cheaper were still happy,” Yvan Brien said.
Brien is on his way to West Palm Beach with his wife and is happy to see the land borders reopened.
Brien said last year’s annual trip down south was costly with plane tickets and the bill for paying to ship his car across state lines.
Raymond and Rosella Labaie were in high spirits despite inching ahead in lines of traffic for over two hours.
“It’s like the airport but in the comfort of your own home,” Rosella said lounging her reactional vehicle.
“We have got the bathroom in the back if we are really desperate,” Raymond Labaie joked.
Proof of vaccination and a passport are all that is needed to cross into the U.S. But Canadians currently need to show a negative PCR test, which runs $150-$300 per swab, before heading back home.
It’s a costly requirement that many travellers hope the Canadian government reconsiders by the time they return.
“We’re going to be gone for five months. Hopefully, it’ll be history,” Raymond Labaie said before crossing the border on the couple’s trip to Florida.
Canada’s chief medical officer, Dr. Theresa Tam, indicated early Friday that Ottawa is well aware of the drawbacks and “we are looking at that quite carefully.”
As if on cue, however, the Canada Border Services Agency followed up with a pointed reminder that the test remains a necessary step.
The federal government’s own rule says that if a trip to the U.S. will last less than 72 hours, travellers can get their test done in Canada before they leave and use the same results when returning to the country.
READ MORE: Business leaders wary of remaining restrictions ahead of Canada-U.S. land border reopening
— with files from Canadian Press
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