Canada to drop Covid-19 PCR test for some returning travellers

Canadians who make trips of 72 hours or less to the United States will no longer need a PCR test when they return home, a government source says. PHOTO: AFP

OTTAWA (REUTERS) - Canada is set to announce on Friday (Nov 19) that it is no longer obliging Canadian travellers returning from short foreign trips to take expensive molecular Covid-19 tests, a government source said on Wednesday.

The travel industry complains that the requirement to take polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests, the most reliable commonly used method of detecting Covid-19, is deterring tourism.

Canadians who make trips of 72 hours or less to the United States will no longer need a PCR test when they return home, said the source, who requested anonymity.

The news was first reported by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.

The requirement was decried as a major impediment by businesses and travellers on both sides of the US-Canada border because it deterred short trips by cross-border day trippers, many looking for shopping deals.

US congressman Brian Higgins, whose district includes Buffalo and Niagara Falls, New York, near the border, said that he met Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Wednesday in Washington along with about a dozen other lawmakers.

Mr Higgins said he was told the testing would be dropped for Americans in a second phase.

The delay for ceasing testing for Americans "makes no sense", Mr Higgins said in a statement. "Testing is not only unnecessary, it is prohibiting a cross-border exchange critical to fostering economic recovery in both nations."

Mr Trudeau is in Washington for meetings on Thursday with US President Joe Biden and Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador.

Three-quarters of Canadian trips to the US in 2019 were by car, according to Statistics Canada. That year, Canadians made 21.5 million car trips across the border that involved less than a day's stay.

On Nov 8, the US lifted an early 2020 travel ban in response to the Covid-19 pandemic that barred access to most non-US citizens travelling from 33 countries and restricted overland entry from Mexico and Canada.

Most travellers are required to show proof of vaccination in both directions but Canada has also required a negative PCR test.

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