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Canada brings back testing requirement for citizens returning home from short U.S. visits

According to the news release from the Public Health Agency of Canada, the requirement was brought back due to the spread of the Omicron variant of the illness.

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Cars from the U.S. trickle across the border at Emerson, MB, Monday, the first day in nearly 18 months since the border closed due to COVID-19.
Photo by Eric Hylden / Grand Forks Herald
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A Canadian business owner says customers have significantly dropped off at his shop, after the government there reinstated a coronavirus testing requirement for returning citizens.

Simon Resch, owner of the duty-free shop in Emerson, just north of Pembina, said business at his store dried up almost immediately after the announcement, which came on Dec. 17 and went into effect on Dec. 21. The move to reinstate the molecular testing requirement for Canadians comes just shy of one month after the nation dropped it , and raises concerns about the impact it will have on businesses on both sides of the border.

“Overnight it took away the meager return of business that we had when (PCR tests) were lifted,” said Resch.

According to the news release from the Public Health Agency of Canada, the requirement was brought back due to the spread of the Omicron variant of the illness.

In a Dec. 28 CBC report, Canadian Tourism Minister Randy Boissonnault said businesses in the tourism sector in that country may need to rely on domestic travelers until the third quarter of 2022. Resch said he might not see a regular number of tourists until the summer of 2023.

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Looking back on nearly two years of the pandemic, Resch said the response to it has been deficient, and there has been nothing to balance restrictions put on businesses, especially travel, tourism and hospitality businesses. The one-two punch of the virus and restrictions to mitigate it, only lead to continuing losses.

“It’s killing this industry,” he said.

Previously, Canadians were only required to get a molecular test, also called a PCR test, if they stayed in the U.S. for more than 72 hours. Now all visitors will need to show a negative test at the border when they return to Canada. Importantly, the test must be taken outside the country, meaning Canadians won’t be able to test in Winnipeg, for example, then spend a weekend in North Dakota.

“There is still a lot we don't know about the Omicron variant, but we do know it is spreading fast,” said Jean-Yves Duclos, Canada’s minister of health, in a news release. “Because we can never be too vigilant when it comes to the safety and health of Canadians, we are updating our travel and border measures and are also working hand-in-hand with provinces and territories to help slow down the spread of the variant in communities across the country.”

The impact of the testing requirement could also be felt in the state. Ryan Riesinger, executive director of Grand Forks International Airport, said it may deter travelers looking to spend the weekend in places like Las Vegas. Allegiant flights to select destinations are set to resume in early January, after they were stopped in December.

“I could see some impact by that sort of a testing requirement decision, for sure,” Riesinger said.

The testing requirement likely won’t have much of an impact on long-term Canadian travelers, snowbirds who spend the winter in warm southern states, said Riesinger. On Tuesday, the Herald reported the airport was seeing an increase in the number of Canadians flying out of GFK.

When asked for comment, staff from the office of Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D, said the new testing requirement for citizens returning to Canada demonstrates why the U.S. government needs to make rapid tests for the coronavirus more widely available. Doing so, they said, would help control the virus’ spread, and could lead to the requirement being lifted more quickly.

Related Topics: U.S.-CANADIAN BORDER
Adam Kurtz is the community editor for the Grand Forks Herald. He covers higher education and other topics in Grand Forks County and the city.

Kurtz joined the Herald in July 2019. He covered business and county government topics before covering higher education and some military topics.

Tips and story ideas are welcome. Get in touch with him at akurtz@gfherald.com, or DM at @ByAdamKurtz.

Desk: 701-780-1110
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