Higgins says testing for vaccinated is redundant & impedes binational economic recovery
As the U.S. prepares to welcome Canadian neighbors back across the border on Nov. 8, Congressman Brian Higgins is urging the government of Canada to drop its COVID-19 testing requirements for fully vaccinated travelers crossing the northern border.
In a letter to Canada’s ambassador to the U.S. Kirsten Hillman, Higgins wrote, “While both the United States and Canada will understandably require proof of vaccination from each other’s citizens to gain entry, only Canada will require a negative COVID-19 test in addition to the aforementioned proof of vaccination at all points of entry. This policy will have adverse side effects that will harm our respective economic recoveries.”
U.S. Customs and Border Protection has confirmed the U.S. will not require testing at land ports of entry when it reopens its border to vaccinated Canadians next Monday.
Canada, which began welcoming Americans back across its border on Aug. 9, does require proof of a negative coronavirus test for both U.S. residents crossing into Canada and Canadian citizens returning after a visit to the U.S.
Higgins, who spent months pushing for the U.S. to relax pandemic border restrictions, applauded Canada for leading the way in reopening the border, but he expressed concern the cost and hassle of testing will ultimately keep many already vaccinated people from making the trip across the border: “The cost to being tested varies depending on location and federal, state, provincial, and local policies – in some cases, the tests required to gain entry to Canada can cost over $300 CAD with no guarantee of appointment availability. In border communities such as Western New York and Southern Ontario, the local economies depend on the free flow of goods and people across the border, often multiple times per day. The expectation that fully vaccinated Canadians and Americans will be able to afford multiple tests per week for the indefinite future to go about their business ignores the economic reality and is financially unsustainable for working families. We can no longer continue subordinating the financial and economic health of our communities and citizens, especially when they have done the right thing, gotten vaccinated, and continue to follow all public health rules and regulations.”
Canada is the largest international inbound market to the U.S., with nearly 21 million visitors spending $20.8 billion in 2019. That same year, over 10.5 million people crossed from Canada into the U.S. through border crossings in the Buffalo-Niagara Falls region specifically. Canadian visitors represent 30% of Buffalo Niagara International Airport customers, 80% of Niagara Falls International Airport customers and approximately 20% of Buffalo Bills season-ticketholders.
Similarly, visitors from the U.S. represent over two-thirds of all international visitors to Canada. The majority of U.S. visitors enter Canada through land ports. In 2019, 16.7 million Americans crossed the border into Canada with about half staying overnight and the other half returning the same day.
Higgins, who serves as co-chair of the Canada-U.S. interparliamentary group and the congressional northern border caucus, met last week with Hillman to discuss border policy and other matters of binational interest.