“It’s going to be gradual, like I was saying to you earlier, everyone’s become accustomed to doing what they’re doing right now and not having to go over there, and so it’s just going to take a little while for everyone to change their routine,” said Doug Harper the owner of Harper’s Exotic Animals and Pet Supply.
Oct. 1 marked the end of a series of mandatory pandemic-linked restrictions that include the need to use the ArriveCAN app, show proof of vaccination, undergo testing, and quarantine or isolate.
Changes to the requirements come over two years after the majority of Canada was sealed off due to the emergence of COVID-19.
For Harper, a lifelong St. Stephen resident, news that the restrictions would be coming to an end brought on a sense of happiness, even if it meant his customers could access competitors again.
“It’s been long enough that these two communities, in my opinion, need to be one again,” he said.
“I’m supportive one way or another with everybody. I just want everything back to normal and everyone to get along again.”
Border restrictions have been slowly eased in recent months as the pressure of the pandemic diminished.
However, the latest changes are expected to streamline the crossing process for travellers, and in border communities, simplify basic trips.
Businesses in St. Stephen, many of whom have not seen their regular U.S. customers in two years, are excited about the changes.
Shawn Cameron, the co-owner of The Five Kings in St. Stephen, said he became cautiously optimistic when he heard about the dropping of mandatory measures.
“Moving forward with the border opening today should help bring more people over to us, so we’re looking forward to it.”
Cameron admitted it hurt to lose another summer of tourists freely crossing the border.
“We’re probably down, I would say, about 30 per cent from what we normally are with the tourist travels from the states.”
He expects to see visitors slowly return to the region in the coming weeks, with the hope they will be busy by Christmas.
As for Canadians hoping to make a trip to the U.S., vaccination rules for foreign travellers remain in place.