April Lewis and her partner Martin Clingwall were returning from a seven-week stay in Palm Springs and hoping to cross the border into B.C. on Saturday. They knew they needed a negative test result, but had no idea how tricky it would be to find a test.
“I honestly, truly thought it would be a piece of cake — that every pharmacy in the Bellingham area would be welcoming us with open arms, saying, ‘Canadians, we love you, come!'” Lewis said Sunday, from a hotel in the American city across the border from Langley.
“We didn’t think to book online, we should have perhaps booked online and we could have got one maybe in Seattle.”
In February, the federal government eased testing requirements for fully-vaccinated Canadians, allowing them to produce a negative rapid test result instead of a PCR result, as long as the test was administered by a health-care entity or lab.
Lewis said several staff at several Bellingham pharmacies told her online reservations were required for a rapid test, but even if they had made one, there was no stock of rapid antigen tests available in Whatcom County at the time.
The couple tried to get one at the local airport, but without an appointment, were turned away there as well. Eventually, Lewis contacted her local MP on Facebook.
Kerry-Lynne Findlay, who represents South Surrey-White Rock, was able to book them a rapid test appointment for Tuesday in Birch Bay, about 30 minutes away from their hotel in Bellingham.
“Thank goodness we can afford it,” Lewis said of the hotel stay. “I can’t believe we’re the only people this has happened to … is everyone else a lot smarter than me and pre-booked online?”
After repeated visits and calls to pharmacies, the couple found a rapid test on Monday, passed it and went home.
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As spring break kicks off, Lewis is urging other travellers to “do your research,” and ensure they make rapid test appointment in advance. With many provinces relaxing most, if not all pandemic public health measures, she also called on the federal government to ease testing requirements at the border.
“This is nonsense,” she said. “Seriously, Mr. Trudeau, if you’re listening, I’m triple-vaxxed — what more do you want, my first-born child?”
The Surrey Board of Trade, concerned about the struggling tourism industry, echoed her calls.
“What has happened to that poor couple is absolutely unacceptable,” said Surrey Board of Trade president Anita Huberman. “Surrey is a border city and we need to ensure that border is fully open.
“I think the clear strategy for the federal government is to remove all of these testing requirements for fully-vaccinated travellers.”