After more than a year-and-a-half without a steady flow of Canadian visitors, business owners in Blaine, Wash., were hoping the reopening of the Canada-US border to non-essential travel would bring a big boost in revenue and traffic.
However, many owners in Blaine, and even Bellingham, told Global News Monday they are not seeing the influx of traffic they expected.
Brant Baron, the owner of Mail Boxes International in Blaine, said Monday they had been open for about an hour and only had four customers so far.
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And they have packages to be picked up that have been there since the border shut down to non-essential traffic in March, 2020.
“The border opening really hasn’t made any impact for us,” he said.
“The ones that have come even, continue to talk about the $150, $200 PCR test. So, as you can see, the impact has been minimal.”
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While a negative COVID-19 test is not required to cross the border into the US, the same does not apply when returning to Canada.
Canada requires a negative polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test taken within 72 hours of the border crossing to enter the country for all travelers five years of age or older. Other tests that will be accepted include a nucleic acid test (NAT), nucleic acid amplification test (NAATs) or reverse transcription loop-mediated isothermal amplification (RT-LAMP).
These tests use methods such as a nasopharyngeal (NP) swab, nose swab, or saliva sample.
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Laura Manats and her husband, from Vancouver, were down for the day in Bellingham shopping and visiting a friend.
They paid $350 for two PCR tests in order to return home.
“We were literally getting ready (to wait) three or four hours and it was five minutes,” Laura said about the border wait.
“We were surprised.”
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Maple Ridge resident, Melissa Leveque, who was visiting family for a few days said she was sure everyone would be at Trader Joe’s Monday, ready to buy their favourites.
“I haven’t seen a lot of my family in a really long time. It was actually really emotional crossing the border and being able to connect,” she said.
“I also like cookie butter,” she laughed.
Leveque said she paid $150 for the PCR test and the results came back in 24 hours.
Businesses that rely heavily on Canadian customers are blaming the complicated and expensive PCR testing requirement for keeping cross-border visitors away.
“You can call the border open all you want but the reality is, if it’s going to cost $150, $200 to come across then that’s a massive deterrent,” Baron said.
He added the only thing that is going to change for them is when normal border traffic is restored.
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