The federal government is expected to announce later this week it is dropping the negative PCR test requirement for Canadians returning from the U.S. for any trip less than 72 hours.
The policy change will cover both citizens and permanent residents. It is expected the new rules will come into effect at the end of November or early December.
Any trips longer than 72 hours outside of Canada will still need a negative PCR test upon return.
“We are very happy to hear that the PCR testing rules that were in place for short visits will no longer apply for those who want to travel to the United States for a day or two,” said B.C. Premier John Horgan in a Wednesday press conference.
“I raised this issue through interventions by people here in British Columbia some weeks ago, and I’m grateful that the federal government has responded.”
The United States reopened its land border to Canadians who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 on Nov. 8.
But the requirement of a negative PCR test kept many Canadians home, concerned about the additional cost to come back to Canada.
The United States does not have a testing requirement to cross the land border. Travellers both to the United States and into Canada must prove they are fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
Right now, any traveller trying to enter Canada must provide a negative PCR test taken at their own expense, and taken no more than 72 hours before their arrival at the border.
Earlier this month, Horgan described the fact travellers could get a test done in B.C., travel to the United States, and then use the test to return less than 72 hours later as “stupidity.”
“If we have double immunized traffic going back and forth across the border, then why would we need a testing regime? I think it’s excessive and I’m going to make that case to the prime minister,” he said.
The Canadian Chamber of Commerce has been calling for the federal government to amend the PCR requirements.
Chamber CEO Perrin Beatty has been advocating to scrap the PCR requirement entirely arguing it is not necessary considering the proof of vaccination.
Beatty has not heard from the federal government about the pending changes yet but supports any adjustment to the PCR testing requirement.
“Anything that reduces the level of requirement here is good, so it’s a step forward,” Beatty said.
“What it does is to get rid of one absurdity. But it leaves in place another absurdity. And that is the expert task force, when they looked at it, said the decisions on the border should be based on vaccination status.”
U.S. businesses told Global News the reopening of the land border to non-essential travel did not bring the flood of Canadian visitors they hoped.
Brant Baron, the owner of Mail Boxes International in Blaine, Wash., said on Nov. 8 they had been open for about an hour and only had four customers so far.
And they have packages to be picked up that have been there since the border shut down to non-essential traffic in March 2020.
“The border opening really hasn’t made any impact for us,” he said. “The ones that have come even, continue to talk about the $150, $200 PCR test. So, as you can see, the impact has been minimal.”
Further details on the change to the negative PCR test requirement have not been confirmed at this time, but more information is expected to be announced later this week.
— With files from David Baxter