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Northern border officials expect Canadian COVID border requirements will expire soon

U.S. Canada border crossing at Champlain-LaColle
WAMC/Pat Bradley
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U.S. Canada border crossing at Champlain-LaColle (file)

Officials along the northern border are anticipating a change in Canadian restrictions by the end of the month.

News reports in Canada indicate that the government is considering allowing the ArriveCAN app to expire on September 30th. All travelers entering Canada must first download the app and enter COVID-related health and vaccination information.

The North Country Chamber of Commerce and its members have been urging Canadian officials to stop using the app as a requirement to cross the border. President Garry Douglas notes that cross border traffic continues to be lower than pre-pandemic levels, and says ArriveCAN is a key reason.

“Post April 1 when Canada eliminated most of its testing requirements we only got back to a 50 percent level compared to 2019 for the same months. Now here at Champlain, north of Plattsburgh, we got back to 70 percent, which is extraordinarily high, but that still means there’s a 30 percent gap and for most of the border a 50 percent gap. The people aren’t coming. Now there’s two reasons they aren’t coming. One is ArriveCAN. And then of course at some point we have to get back to allowing unvaccinated people to travel. That is part of that 30 to 50 percent that aren’t traveling as well.”

Vermont Governor Phil Scott was in Montreal on September 6th and 7th to meet with business and government leaders and attend the International Aerospace Innovation Forum. In Rutland on Wednesday, the Republican was asked about the border and noted it came up in Canada, too.

“There was a lot of pushback in Quebec in particular. They didn’t like it. From my perspective I do think it’s hurt some of the tourism from our Canadian guests. They don’t want to come down because it’s not that flexible. You have to use the ArriveCAN and register within three days, 72 hours, of arriving at the border. It’s just a little cumbersome. It doesn’t allow that flexibility. From my perspective I think it’s been counterproductive and I wouldn’t mind seeing it be dropped altogether.”

There are three things that the North Country Chamber’s Douglas would like the Canadian government to allow to expire by the end of September.

“It’s looking very encouraging. One is to no longer make ArriveCAN mandatory. It will become voluntary and it may still be useful for returning Canadians who have made a lot of purchases they need to report, to pre-do that and speed their crossing. Secondly the restriction against effectively entering Canada if you’re unvaccinated. And the third is the continuation of random testing at the border. All three are due to expire on September 30th and we’re hopeful that all three are going to be allowed to expire. By all indications a majority of Parliament is already at the point where it wants all this to go away. Most Canadian people do.”

Late Thursday, the CBC reported that a senior government source said the government had decided to make the use of ArriveCAN optional and to drop the vaccination requirement for visitors entering Canada. The news broke as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau convened a cabinet meeting. A formal announcement is expected Monday according to the CBC report.

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