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Canadian visitors must test for COVID-19 to return

The opening of the U.S. border to fully vaccinated Canadian visitors next month comes with a caveat. Canadians still must follow their country’s border requirements, including COVID-19 testing measures, to re-enter at the end of their trips.

The Canada Border Services Agency released information reminding travelers that they need to understand their obligations as they make their travel plans south.

Fully vaccinated travelers coming into Canada must complete the mandatory pre-arrival molecular COVID-19 test, such as the PCR test, and submit the results, along with digital proof of vaccination, using the free ArriveCAN app or website within 72 hours before arriving at the border. They also may be subject to mandatory random testing on arrival.

For short trips that are less than 72 hours, Canadian citizens and certain other registered and permanent residents of Canada are allowed to take their pre-arrival molecular test before they leave Canada. However, if the test is more than 72 hours old when they re-enter Canada, they will be required to get a new pre-arrival molecular test in the United States.

First District Health Unit has already supplied a number of PCR tests for Canadian travelers who have been in the country for permitted reasons, said First District spokesperson Lori Brierley. First District has test sites in Minot and Bottineau. Public health tests individuals at no charge, regardless of citizenship.

Individuals seeking testing need to make appointments and keep in mind the lag time in getting results from the State Laboratory, Brierley said. Typically results are available within the 72 hours, but delays might occur when the 72 hours includes a weekend because the laboratory is closed Sunday.

Individuals also must register online with the North Dakota Department of Health to get their results. They need to visit the COVID-19 travel page on the department’s website to request the detailed test results required for travel.

Trinity Health reports it conducts only rapid antigen tests, which are not accepted at the border.

Sanford Health in Minot provides testing for patients from out of the country if they have signed orders from a Sanford provider.

“Due to high patient volumes, the Sanford Health Minot walk-in providers do not currently write orders for those traveling from abroad,” said Jake Mellmer, executive director of primary care and regional medicine for Sanford’s Bismarck region. “The public health department, First District Health Unit, is offering appointments for patients to request a signed order, which they can present to Sanford Health for testing.”

Sanford notifies patients of results in two to three days. Out-of-country patients should check if COVID-19 testing for travel is covered by their insurance companies, Mellmer said.

If returning Canadians fail to have the required test documents at the border, they will be allowed entry but may be subject to a $5,000 fine plus surcharges or face criminal prosecution. They also may be required to quarantine if symptomatic.

Canada is allowing fully vaccinated citizens of the United States to enter Canada for discretionary purposes. All travelers ages 5 or older also must provide proof of a COVID-19 negative molecular test result to enter Canada or proof of a positive test result dated between the previous 14 and 180 days. Some unvaccinated individuals may be allowed to enter Canada in restricted circumstances, typically related to work, school or other daily or critical functions.

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