Omicron variant raises question about Canada-U.S. border restrictions
Molecular test requirements will end for fully vaccinated Canadians returning from the United States by land border crossing, but questions remain as to how long the new rules will last, given the rise of a new COVID-19 variant.
David Melamed will be driving to Ogdensburg, N.Y. early Tuesday morning in the hopes of beating what he expects will be a rush of travellers heading across the border.
“Lifting the restrictions is really huge,” says Melamed. “You pay anywhere from $150 to $200 a test every time you go. it adds to your bottom line.”
Melamed needs borders to be open and accessible. His company, OShoot, which sells target shooting supplies, relies on American inventory and when the borders closed because of COVID-19, so did his company.
“It was a flourishing business. To go to a sudden stop like that was disastrous,” says Melamed. “We do our own brokerage and bring it back. We do that through the UPS store in Ogdensburg and we hope that the border isn’t going to get shut down again and that they realize shutting the border down like that really isn’t the answer.”
However, the rising concern of the Omicron variant of COVID-19 has health officials watching border-crossings closely. The new strain has already closed off travel from some southern African countries and on Monday, Ontario’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Kieran Moore said that the province would review border protocols with the federal government.
“Most of this is a federal responsibility, but we’re at the table voicing any concern by the Ontario government to ensure that we are listened to,” said Dr. Moore. “This is a rapidly changing environment. Lots of questions yet about this new strain that we have to have answers for. We need to understand really if this is a virulent infection, if it makes people significantly sick, or leads them to hospitalization.”
U.S. President Joe Biden did not mention re-introducing travel bans at Canadian entry points during his Monday press conference at the White House. Biden instead focused on increasing vaccinations and that current vaccines work against Omicron, but added manufactures will be ready to change the formula of their vaccines if needed.
Presenting a negative COVID-19 test to enter at U.S. and Canadian land borders is not required for fully vaccinated travellers 12 years old and up. However, Canadians who have left the country for more than 72 hours are required to provide a negative molecular test result that has been taken within 72 hours.