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

WAMC/Pat Bradley
U.S. - Canada border at Champlain, NY

Officials in the North Country and New York are praising Canada’s decision to remove requirements that 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.

On Friday afternoon Canadian Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos officially announced that policy will change.

“As November 30, 2021 fully vaccinated Canadian citizens, permanent residents and persons registered under the Indian Act who take short trips outside of the country for 72 hours or less will no longer be required to complete a molecular COVID-19 test before re-entering Canada. This change will apply to trips both by land and by air," said Duclos. "I would also like to note that we will be reevaluating the entry requirements for American citizens coming to Canada and will provide an update on any adjustments at a later date.”

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," Douglas said. "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," Cashman said. "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.”

“Nothing is more welcome than allowing the casual visitation from the Canadian side to the U.S. side," Douglas added. "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.”

Canadian officials said beginning November 30th there will be very few exemptions for non-vaccinated individuals to travel.

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