News that the U.S. would open its land borders to vaccinated travelers on November 8 was met with relief by border towns along the northern border and recognition that much more needs to be done before the local economy can begin to be restored. Canada’s insistence that citizens and visitors entering the country must be fully vaccinated as well as having a negative Covid-19 PCR result taken within 72 hours will mean these communities will not see day trippers anytime soon.
In a letter to governor Jay Inslee’s assistant Joe Timmons, Point Roberts fire chief Christopher Carleton explained why the reopening would not benefit the community.
“The difficulty remains for my community of Point Roberts. It may provide access to a few international travelers into Point Roberts but not the day-to-day necessary for economic recovery. This is due to (if it maintains) Canada’s requirement of a negative COVID test to return to Canada regardless of time spent in the US. Our grocery store, parcel locations, gas stations and other businesses need the day-to-day again. It is a welcomed start though for US resort areas and vacation destinations, just not border towns needing day-to-day economic influx as before the pandemic,” he wrote.
Carleton pointed out that Point Roberts “provides a highly vaccinated, safe US community” and suggested a possible solution would be for Canada to adopt a “reciprocal approach as we currently have that allows permanent residents of Point Roberts to travel into the Delta/Lower Mainland area without a negative COVID test made available to international travelers who live in the same area to enjoy Point Roberts again without having to provide negative COVID tests returning to Canada.”
“Habitual residents” of Point Roberts were recently allowed by a change to the Canadian Order in Council authorizing quarantine measures to access neighboring communities for nonessential purposes without needing a Covid-19 test or show proof of vaccination.
The requirement for Covid-19 testing of travelers is gaining opposition in high places. B.C. premier John Horgan stated in an interview on Vancouver radio station CKNW that the test requirement was “stupid” and that he intended to call Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on it.
“Double immunization and the prospect of third doses for vulnerable people, which is currently underway, I believe puts us in a very strong position to say that the testing regime that is currently in place is redundant, and that we can probably move on without having that,” Horgan said.
Point Roberts Chamber of Commerce president Brian Calder has hammered against the testing requirement in a series of interviews recently saying day trippers will not come back to Point Roberts until the testing requirement is abandoned. The cost of PCR testing will deter those people who would come for less than a day to pick up parcels, buy gas or groceries, he says.
Nick Kiniski, owner of Kiniski’s Reef Tavern, agrees with Calder. “It’s not going to help my business if the Canadians need a negative Covid-19 test to get back home,” he told The Northern Light last week. On October 17, Kiniski closed the restaurant for the winter.
On October 13, the Canadian government released a report of border testing results for fully vaccinated travelers between August 9 and September 30, 2021. Of 102,501 tests completed for arrivals by air, just 0.2 percent, or 205 passengers, tested positive. Of 51,184 tests completed for land border arrivals, just 0.17 percent, or 87 individuals, tested positive.
Yet Canada’s chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam maintains that the testing requirement remains vital to the country’s efforts to contain the Covid-19 pandemic. On October 14, she said, “We have to have ongoing evaluation and discussion. But I would just like to remind everyone that right now we’re still at the top of that fourth wave. We’re in a situation in Canada where our health systems are still very fragile. We need to take a precautionary approach in the next little while.”
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