North Country officials praise Canada’s plan to change border crossing requirements – WAMC

Officials in the North Country and New York are praising Canada’s decision to remove requirements citizens traveling out of the country on short trips must produce a negative COVID test within 72 hours of their return to Canada.

Canada opened its land border to vaccinated travelers on August 9th but all travelers must prove they have been vaccinated and must provide a negative COVID test taken within 72 hours of arriving at the border.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau met with New York’s Congressional representatives in Washington this week. Following their meeting, New York Senator Charles Schumer reported that Canada will remove the testing requirement for vaccinated Canadians who spend less than 72 hours in the U.S. The Canadian government is also working on changing the testing requirement for vaccinated Americans traveling to Canada.

North Country Chamber of Commerce President Garry Douglas says the Canadian government is responding to concerns about burdensome regulations sooner than expected.

“If there was going to be a first step this is the first step we would want. It’s finally going to allow that casual travel by Canadians that the testing requirement really made fairly impossible because of the cost and the process that Canadians had to go through. Now those day trips, those short visits for a couple of days to recreate, to shop for Christmas will be practical because there won’t be the cost of that test. As long as they’re here for no more than 72 hours they can do what they’ve always enjoyed doing down here and turn around and go home.”

The Town of Plattsburgh has numerous retail businesses and the region’s largest mall, which attract Canadian shoppers. Supervisor Michael Cashman says it’s a step in the right direction.

“It will certainly provide more opportunities for our local businesses to bring in shoppers be it for the day visit or you know those say three-day visits. We are not completely to where we need to be. But it is heartening to see us moving forward.”

Supervisor Cashman adds it’s now time to create parity for all travelers.

“Lifting of the testing requirements for short-term visitors based upon the decision of the Canadian government is very welcome news. Now what we need to see though is parity in our border crossing policies for Americans to go north into Canada,” says Cashman. “Because both of our countries benefit from having the day-trippers or the short-term visitors. We both gain socially, culturally and economically in our communities that abut the border.”

Democratic Buffalo area Congressman Brian Higgins told CTV News that the Canadian government plans to end PCR tests for vaccinated travelers in three phases beginning with Canadian citizens. Douglas said the North Country’s Congresswoman also spoke directly with Trudeau about the phased plan.

“When questioned by Congresswoman Stefanik, as she reported to me, about how quickly might these phases be rolled out the Prime Minister indicated that it would be as soon as possible,” Douglas explains. “So I think there’s a sense that they are now in a process of review and consideration which if we think back not long ago neither government would say anything. We now at least are talking about processes. We’re talking about phases. We welcome that. And again nothing is more welcome than allowing the casual visitation from the Canadian side to the U.S. side. And then we all look forward to that next phase being us being able to go in the other direction. But certainly the most important thing for us was to start having that social and economic connection again with our neighbors.”

The policy is expected to take effect in the coming days.

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