Canadian travelers find free COVID-19 tests in the United States – .

Canadian travelers find free COVID-19 tests in the United States – .

TORONTO – Despite the opening of the Canada-U.S. Land border, some travelers say the mandatory negative COVID-19 molecular test required to return to Canada, which can cost more than the equivalent of C $ 150, is forcing them to continue give up travel.

Currently, anyone entering Canada must show proof of a negative molecular test for COVID-19 performed no more than 72 hours before arriving at the border.

These tests, such as the PCR test, must be performed at the expense of the traveler, and although the costs for these tests vary, they often cost anywhere from $ 150 to $ 300. Less expensive rapid antigen testing is not accepted for return to Canada.

Still, some Canadians have found an affordable option, with some US clinics and pharmacies offering free molecular testing under a government-funded program in all states. However, they point out that it is necessary to plan ahead to get these tests for free.

Kenda Martin, from Moncton NB, travels to New York City each September for the US Open tennis tournament. She told in a telephone interview Thursday that she had done “about seven hours of research” before the trip to ensure she would be able to return to Canada with the correct test results.

After considering his options, Martin opted for a free PCR test for his return trip through New York City Health and Hospitals.

While the test was free for Martin, it was actually funded by the U.S. government as part of a program to provide low-cost or no-cost COVID-19 testing to everyone in the United States, including those who do not have medical insurance.

Upon arriving at the test site, Martin said she must have stood in line for about 45 minutes, before a woman took in her information, including listing her hotel when asked for an address and checking his passport. Martin says the process took about 15 minutes and she was not required to provide insurance information.

“We were tested probably at three in the afternoon, and by the time I woke up Sunday morning at 7 am my results were in my email,” Martin said. “It was very fast and didn’t cost me a dime. It was super easy. “

Martin added that she had not encountered any problems returning to Canada with her results.

While it sounds simple, clinics and pharmacies warn that Canadians may not get their test results in time for their return, as PCR results can take up to 72 hours.

Tami Watson, of Southport, Man. also recently took advantage of the free PCR tests offered by the state of North Dakota while visiting her boyfriend. Watson told in a phone interview on Tuesday that his test results came back in about 28 hours.

Watson had to call ahead to provide him with information from Grand Forks Public Health and register for MyChart, an app where test results are available, before heading to the facility to get tested.

“Once you’ve done those two things, you can come and go as much as you want,” Watson said.

Watson said she didn’t have to show insurance or ID at the testing center and was “in and out within five minutes.” She added that she had no problem crossing the Canadian border with her results.

Watson said she planned to use the free testing program when she returned to North Dakota in two weeks, and noted that the testing was not part of a “loophole” to secretly help Canadians cut back. their travel expenses.

“They openly tell people that they are offering this to Canadians for free. They want us back, ”she said.

The federal government lifted the global advisory asking Canadians to avoid non-essential travel outside the country in October, but continues to advise against travel on cruise ships.

Canada opened its borders last month to non-essential international travelers who received both doses of a Health Canada-approved COVID-19 vaccine, and fully vaccinated Americans have been allowed to cross the border into Canada since August.

The U.S. government reopened its land border to non-essential Canadian travelers on November 8, while air travel to the United States was permitted under certain conditions.

Andrew D’Amours of Trois-Rivières, Que. opted for a self-administered nucleic acid amplification test (NAAT), which is listed as an accepted test by the Canadian government, at a Walgreens pharmacy during his last two trips to the United States

D’Amours, who is the co-founder of the travel information website Flytrippers and who has written about it for his site, told in a phone interview Thursday that the process “really couldn’t be easier ”.

D’Amours said travelers should book the tests, which the chain calls ID NOW tests, online through the pharmacy’s drive-thru test site. He says these tests can also be found at CVS clinics through a similar process.

Upon arriving at the site, D’Amours said he was only asked for his name and date of birth, after entering his information online beforehand. He added that he left the insurance section of the online form blank.

D’Amours said he did not have to show any ID, insurance or method of payment.

“The NAAT is super handy because you get the results in a few hours, usually three, four hours, but they say within 24 – that’s the maximum,” D’Amours said, adding he was “blown away.” by how fast and efficient the process was.

D’Amours said the NAAT is a game-changer for Canadian travelers who want to travel to the United States for a vacation.

“You don’t have to worry about getting the results on time and especially because it’s free, [it] was very, very easy, ”he said.

However, D’Amours said travelers should plan ahead if they use this method, as testing must be booked in advance online, and not all states offer NAAT, only PCR. He suggests Canadians plan a vacation to states offering NAATs for a smoother trip.

D’Amours added that Canadians should also be prepared to pay for a test if the US federal program subsidizing such tests comes to an abrupt end with little notice.

Anne Hodgen-Loohuizen, from Exeter, Ont., Traveled to West Lafayette, Indiana last week with her family for a business conference. They all took the NAATs offered by a nearby Walgreens test site to return to Canada.

Hodgen-Loohuizen told in a telephone interview on Tuesday that they had to book online in advance and provide Canadian ID at the drive-thru.

“We self-administered the tests… [the samples] I returned to them and continued on our way, ”said Hodgen-Loohuizen. “About an hour later, our results were emailed to us and to our phones. “

She says she plans to use these tests when she visits the United States again in December and then in February, if the program is still available.

Hodgen-Loohuizen said Americans are happy to welcome Canadians back and noted that the cost of a free molecular test is likely minor for the US government compared to the blow the tourism industry has suffered during the pandemic. .

“We’re not going to cheat the system or anything,” she said. “You tell them you’re traveling and need the test to get home and they agree. It wasn’t a big deal and we didn’t have any issues. ”


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