Oct. 20—PLATTSBURGH — With the U.S. on schedule to lift COVID travel restrictions for fully vaccinated visitors next month, including those traveling south from Canada, the North Country Chamber of Commerce is shifting its advocacy up north.
The U.S. will as of Nov. 8 only require proof of vaccination from international travelers, but the Canadian Government still has its testing requirement in place for both those visiting its nation and Canadians returning home, with no end in sight.
A SHARED BORDER
"One of the most unfortunate developments in U.S.-Canadian relations following the border restrictions imposed in early 2020 has been the clear abandonment in both countries of the notion of a shared border, where policies should be coordinated and be close to identical for most travelers," Garry Douglas, North Country Chamber of Commerce president and CEO, said.
"Instead, we remain stuck with two countries independently applying unilateral changes, resulting in a seesaw effect where at one-point things are more open in one direction and then the reverse."
Canada reopened its border to Americans in August, ending restrictions on nonessential travel set alongside the U.S. in March 2020.
With the move came new regulations that require visitors show proof of vaccination and a negative COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours of the trip.
The move presents concern for some, who believe such a requirement will deter Canadians from bothering to travel south.
According to Douglas, the chamber clarified with the Canadian Government that Canadians visiting the U.S. for less than 72 hours could use a COVID test taken before traveling into the U.S. as their required testing for return.
"This still adds a task and cost, but at least means short-term visitors and day trippers do not need to somehow obtain a test in the U.S. before returning," he said.
The continued lack of a unilateral border protocol has the chamber president turning his attention to Canada, encouraging the nation reciprocate the United States' more simplified cross-border protocols scheduled for next month.
"Without this, we will have a period where travel will certainly increase but with a definite limitation on Canadians engaging in the sort of casual travel we all want to get back to at some point," Douglas said.
"This will not happen quickly, but Canadian voices are starting to call for this now that the U.S. is taking its November 8 actions, and we are in touch with a number of Canadian officials and partners."
Still, Douglas embraced the thought of freer business-related travel and family interactions between the sister nations.
"Cross-border business and investment has been stymied for more than 18 months, but is starting to get ready for visits and meetings once more," he said. "And we welcome free access by Canadians to Plattsburgh International Airport for the upcoming season of holiday and winter travels.
"Indeed, avoiding the cost of tests by Canadian snowbirds and others flying to U.S. destinations is, while it lasts, an added incentive to come and fly here. Overall, we are again in the mode of definitely welcoming the upcoming progress while shifting and continuing advocacy at the other end of the seesaw."
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