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Canada appears ready to drop irksome testing requirements for short-term travelers returning home

According to a Wednesday, Nov. 17, report by Canadian television network CBC, the requirement to show proof of a negative molecular COVID-19 test before crossing into Canada will be dropped at the end of the month. The new rule will apply to Canadians who have been in the U.S. for fewer than 72 hours. Molecular tests will still be required for trips longer than three days.

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The border crossing at Pembina, N.D., on Aug. 9, 2021.

Canada appears to be on the verge of dropping the coronavirus testing requirement for its citizens reentering the country after short trips to the United States.

According to a Wednesday, Nov. 17, report by Canadian television network CBC, the requirement to show proof of a negative molecular COVID-19 test before crossing into Canada will be dropped at the end of the month. The new rule will apply to Canadians who have been in the U.S. for fewer than 72 hours. Molecular tests will still be required for trips longer than three days.

News about the testing requirement being dropped was revealed by sources to the CBC, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. According to the outlet, the Canadian government is expected to make an official announcement on Friday.

In northeast North Dakota, that means residents can expect to see more Manitoba license plates in local parking lots. Barry Wilfahrt, president and CEO of the Grand Forks/East Grand Forks Chamber of Commerce, said those license plates are long overdue, and the community should be ready to welcome Canadian travelers.

“It’s exceptionally positive news for the Greater Grand Forks economy,” Wilfahrt said. “We are very excited, because that should result in quite a few more Canadians willing to travel to the states. We as a community should be ready to welcome them with open arms.”

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The timing of the relaxed restriction is fortuitous, as the holiday shopping season kicks into gear. Visit Greater Grand Forks had earlier ramped up its advertising campaign welcoming Canadian visitors to the region. Billboards with welcoming messages are north of the border and along Interstate 29. Julie Rygg, executive director of Visit Greater Grand Forks, said her office has been fielding calls from Canadians wondering where they can get local coronavirus tests, and also if the results will be back in a timely manner.

“This is just going to make travel so much easier on them, and it makes it easier to come and visit, and hopefully do it more often,” Rygg said.

Simon Resch, who owns the Duty Free Shop in Emerson, Manitoba, was thrilled at the news. His business has suffered heavily due to travel restrictions. When the border reopened on Nov. 8 to southbound traffic, he said he had his best day for sales in the last 20 months, between 6 a.m. and 9 a.m.

“This really does lift that roadblock for the weekend getaway to Grand Forks,” Resch said. “It's almost two years since we've been able to do that. (This is) huge, huge, huge news. I'm very excited, we're almost there.”

According to the CBC report, the Canadian government has been facing pressure from business groups to align re-entry rules between the two countries. The U.S. does not require a negative COVID-19 test when people drive into the country, but proof of vaccination instead.

At present, it appears Americans traveling into Canada will still need to present a negative COVID-19 test and proof of vaccination. They also must upload their information into a Canadian smartphone app.

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