TORONTO – Although the land border between Canada and the United States is now open, some travelers say the mandatory negative molecular COVID-19 test required to return to Canada, which can cost more than the equivalent of C $ 150, it makes them continue to give up travel.
Currently, anyone entering Canada must show proof of a negative molecular test for COVID-19 done no more than 72 hours before their arrival at the border.
These tests, such as the PCR test, must be performed by the traveler, and although the costs of these tests vary, they are often priced between $ 150 and $ 300. Rapid antigen tests, which are less expensive, are not accepted to return to Canada.
However, some Canadians have found an affordable option, with select U.S. clinics and pharmacies offering free molecular testing through a government-funded program in all states. However, they emphasize that you need to plan ahead to get these tests for free.
Kenda Martin, of Moncton NB, travels to New York City each September for the US Open tennis tournament. He told CTVNews.ca in a phone interview Thursday that he did “about seven hours of research” before the trip to make sure he could return to Canada with the right test results.
After studying his options, Martin opted for a free PCR test for his trip back to New York City Health and Hospitals.
Although the test was free for Martin, it was actually funded by the U.S. government as part of a program to offer low-cost or no-cost COVID-19 testing to everyone in the U.S., including those who do not have it. medical insurance.
Arriving at the test site, Martin said he had to wait in line for about 45 minutes, before a woman withdrew her information, including her hotel listing when asked to provide an address and check. of your passport. Martin says the process took about 15 minutes and he was not forced to provide any insurance information.
“They tested us probably at three in the afternoon, and when I woke up Sunday morning at 7 in the morning, my results were in my email,” Martin said. “It was very fast and it didn’t cost me a penny. It was very easy.”
Martin added that he had no problem when he returned to Canada with his results.
While it may seem simple, clinics and pharmacies warn that Canadians may not get test results in time for their return, as PCR results can take up to 72 hours.
Tami Watson, of Southport, Man. she also recently took advantage of the free PCR tests offered by the state of North Dakota when she visited her boyfriend. Watson told CTVNews.ca in a telephone interview Tuesday that the results of his tests returned in about 28 hours.
Watson had to call first to provide his information to Grand Forks Public Health and register with MyChart, an application where test results are made available, before going to the facility for testing .
“Once you’ve done those two things, you can come and go as much as you want,” Watson said.
Watson says he did not have to show insurance or an ID at the test facility and that he “came in and out in five minutes.” He added that he had no trouble getting back across the Canadian border with his results.
Watson said he plans to use the free testing program when he returns to North Dakota in two weeks, noting that these tests are not part of any “crack” to secretly help Canadians reduce travel costs. .
“They are openly telling people that they are offering this for free to Canadians. They want us back,” he said.
The federal government lifted the global warning urging Canadians to avoid non-essential travel abroad in October, but continues to discourage cruise travel.
Canada opened its borders last month to non-essential international travelers who have received two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine approved by Health Canada, and fully vaccinated Americans have been able to cross the border into Canada from the ‘August.
The U.S. government reopened its land border to non-essential Canadian travelers on November 8, while air travel to the U.S. has been allowed under certain conditions.
Andrew D’Amours de Trois-Rivières, Que. opted for a free self-administered nucleic acid amplification (NAAT) test, listed as a test accepted by the Canadian government, at a Walgreens pharmacy during his last two trips to the US
D’Amours, who is the co-founder of the travel information website Flytrippers and has written about it for his site, told CTVNews.ca on Thursday in a telephone interview that the process “really couldn’t be easier.” .
D’Amours said travelers should book these tests, which the chain calls ID NOW tests, online through the pharmacy’s drive-thru test site. He says these tests can also be found in CVS clinics through a similar process.
Upon arriving at the site, D’Amours said he was only asked for his name and date of birth, having previously entered his information online. He added that he left the insurance section of the online form blank.
D’Amours said he did not have to show identification, insurance or provide a method of payment.
“The NAAT is very convenient because you get the results in a few hours, usually three or four hours, but they say that in 24, that’s the maximum,” D’Amours said, adding that he was “amazed.” “the speed and efficiency of the process.
D’Amours said the NAAT is a “game changer” for Canadian travelers who want to go on vacation to the United States.
“You don’t have to stress about getting results on time and especially because it’s free, [it] it was very, very easy, ”he said.
However, D’Amours said travelers should plan ahead if they use this method, as tests must be booked in advance online and not all states offer NAAT, only PCR. He suggests that Canadians plan a vacation in the states that offer NAAT to make a quieter trip.
D’Amours added that Canadians should also be prepared to pay for a test if the U.S. federal program that subsidizes those tests ends abruptly with little notice.
Anne Hodgen-Loohuizen, of Exeter, Ontario, traveled to West Lafayette, Indiana last week with her family for a business conference. They all took the NAATs offered through a nearby Walgreens test site to return to Canada.
Hodgen-Loohuizen told CTVNews.ca in a telephone interview Tuesday that they had to book online in advance and provide a Canadian ID on the freeway.
“We self – administered the tests … we gave [the samples] “We went back to them and went our own way,” Hodgen-Loohuizen said. “About an hour later, our results were emailed to us and to our phones.”
She says she plans to use these tests when she travels to the U.S. back in December and then in February, if the program is still available.
Hodgen-Loohuizen said Americans are happy to welcome Canadians and noted that the cost of a free molecular trial is probably lower for the U.S. government compared to the impact the tourism sector has had. during the pandemic.
“We’re not scamming the system or anything,” he said. “You tell them you’re traveling and you need proof to go home and they’re fine. It hasn’t been a big deal and we haven’t had any problems.”