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Some travel advisors urging less costly COVID-19 testing option

'We would really hope the Canadian citizens are able to travel more freely, more loosely with a lot less restrictions and a lot less costs,' says Newmarket travel agency owner
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International travel consultant Kirsty Roberts said it felt great to get out to British Columbia last month.

Roberts, who works with Newmarket-based Up Up and Away Travel, said things were less restricted compared to last year. Although COVID-19 screening still occurs, the temperature checks at airports in 2020 are gone. Although she had to use a vaccine passport at businesses in British Columbia, she said she prepared for that.

“We’ve been cooped up for so long, I just wanted to see what travelling was like,” she said. “I was just thrilled to be able to get away.” 

Travel agents are pushing Canada to continue to loosen restrictions on vaccinated travellers, as vacation demand resumes. The federal government announced Oct. 5 it would start mandating COVID-19 vaccines for passengers on planes and trains for everyone 12 and older, effective Oct. 30. 

Up Up and Away Travel owner Mike Sanderson said he hopes the announcement leads to Canada lifting some of the requirements for international travel.

“We would really hope the Canadian citizens are able to travel more freely, more loosely with a lot less restrictions and a lot less costs,” Sanderson said, adding the fourth wave does not seem to have been as aggressive as people feared with lockdowns not yet considered needed. 

The Canadian government said the vaccine mandate is a needed step in preventing COVID-19 spread. It is also preparing a pan-Canadian document for travellers to showcase their proof of vaccination.

“The government of Canada is committed to keeping the transportation sector, including employees and travellers, safe and secure,” it said in a news release. “Mandatory vaccination for the federally regulated air, rail, and marine sectors helps limit the risk of spreading COVID-19 and helps prevent against future outbreaks.”

Sanderson, who is a member of the advocacy group the Association of Canadian Independent Travel Advisors, said they have pushed to loosen restrictions on testing in particular. International travellers entering Canada have to provide a lab-based PCR test, but the association hopes that could be changed to a rapid antigen test instead.

Travellers have to pay for COVID-19 tests out of pocket, with the type of test depending on where they are going. Sanderson said the PCR tests can be costly, potentially $150 to $200 US, as opposed to $40 Canadian for a rapid-antigen test in Ontario. 

Canada only requiring antigen tests would have an impact, Sanderson said.

“It’s absolutely massive. There’s quite a cost,” he said. “When you’re talking about a family of five going away for a vacation, adding $1,000 to $1,500 onto their trip, that is a massive difference for people.” 

Other sticking points with the association include the requirement for children under 12 to quarantine upon return, as they cannot be vaccinated, as well as government tourism recovery programs not including them.

However, Sanderson said vaccination mandates should not have much of an impact on his business.

“It’s not making that much of a difference because the majority of people are vaccinated."

Roberts said she plans to take a trip to Jamaica soon as her first international travel since the pandemic. She said she trusted in the safety precautions in place. 

“It’s just time to get moving again and travel again,” she said. “I think we can all do that safely.”


Joseph Quigley

About the Author: Joseph Quigley

Joseph is the municipal reporter for NewmarketToday.
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