Monday, February 15, 2021

Canada clamps down on border travel, but truck drivers still have a free pass

As of today, new rules belatedly come into force requiring a negative PCR COVID-19 test for anyone travelling by land from the USA to Canada (or a positive test taken 14 to 90 days earlier, which I'm less convinced about), to be followed by a mandatory 14 day pre-arranged quarantine period. Although Canadian citizens cannot be turned away at the border (unlike US and other citizens), they can nevertheless be fined $3,000 if they don't have the required paperwork.

From next week onwards, the requirements will be further ramped up, and arrivals will also be required to take a molecular test on arrival at the Canadian border, followed by a mandatory 3-day hotel stay at the border while the test is being processed (rules that are similar to those recently instituted for travellers arriving by plane).

This is all well and good - it's no coincidence that the countries that have dealt best with the pandemic have been mainly island countries, like Australia, New Zealand and Taiwan, that can more easily regulate their arriving travellers - but bear in mind that this only applies to "non-essential" visits to the country. 

CTV estimates that 93% of arrivals at the Canadian borders will be totally unaffected by the new rules, because healthcare workers and truck drivers (whatever they may be carrying) are considered "essential". So, a truck driver who may have travelled through 14 different states, picked up goods from suspect warehouses and food processing terminals, eaten at greasy spoon truck stops, and slept who knows where, can continue to just wander into the country and potentially proceed to infect any number of locals with complete impunity. 

All the hoopla about the new federal rules? Not such a big deal after all, then. Trucking associations and unions have been agitating for weeks to be exempted from any rule changes. They argue that truck drivers are ultra-cautious and rarely, if ever, leave the safety of their cabs, an argument that sounds pretty unconvincing to me, but then what do I know?

At the same time, Canadian provinces apparently have literally millions of unused rapid testing kits just sitting around. Why on earth would we not be insisting that truck drivers be tested before they enter the country? It may not be 100% reliable, but it's 100% better than no testing at all.

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