Some Manitobans are finding out the hard way about requirements to re-enter Canada after short trips into the U.S.
A 73-year-old Winnipeg man who went to Pembina, N.D. Tuesday to pick up a parcel is in day three of a mandatory quarantine, despite being fully vaccinated and carrying all the information he thought was required to return to Canada.
“It was a nightmare,” the man, who asked not to be named, said in an interview. “I got a 14-day quarantine.”
On Nov. 30, the rules changed to allow fully vaccinated Canadians who re-enter the country within 72 hours to return without providing a negative PCR test. However, travellers are required to submit mandatory information including proof of vaccination in the ArriveCAN app before arriving in Canada.
People who don’t won’t be eligible for the exemption may face delays at the border for public health questioning and may be subject to fines or enforcement action.
The man said he spent about 20 minutes in the U.S. fetching the parcel. When he tried getting back into Canada, the man said a border officer told him he needed to have the ArriveCAN app downloaded on his cell phone.
The man said the agent let him return to the U.S. to download and fill out the app, which he did. When he tried getting back into Canada a second time, he said a different border officer told him information surrounding his quarantine plan was incomplete.
“The agent says we’re putting you on a mandatory quarantine,” the man explained. “I said, ‘14-day quarantine.’ I said, ‘Pardon me.’ I haven’t been in the states for more than an hour.”
The man said he tried showing both his Canadian and Manitoba proof of vaccination, but it wasn’t accepted.
“I have all this information that I’ve been vaccinated and for one thing, I told the agent I’m 73 years old I’m not illiterate when it comes to working on the computer and stuff like that and using my phone but I most certainly don’t have all the skills required,” he said.
He’s not the only one who was caught by surprise. Karianna Smith and Joel Epps, who are both fully vaccinated, took a short trip to the United States and planned their return for the day the new rules took effect.
“We were asked if we had the ArriveCAN app and I said, ‘No I haven’t heard of it yet’ and she basically said, ‘Okay, well you guys are on quarantine now for 14 days,’” said Epps.
The couple stayed in the U.S. for less than 72 hours in order to qualify for a new exemption which lifts the testing requirement.
The problem is they didn’t know about the ArriveCAN app and they say they weren’t given a chance to download it and fill it out when they got to the border.
“I had to call in sick for the next 14 days at work and then Joel works in the Yukon so he’s home only for two weeks which is the rest of our quarantine and then he has to go right back to work,” Smith said.
They’re taking it all in stride but the couple said the unexpected quarantine has put a crinkle in their pre-Christmas plans.
“Considering it was the first day that new rules were implemented we definitely thought that we wouldn’t automatically be put into quarantine but that we would get a chance to at least fill it out,” Smith said.
They’re now waiting on the results of a COVID-19 test they had to take at home when they got back to Winnipeg and will have to take a second one on the eighth day of their quarantine.
At Mike’s Parcel Pickup in Pembina, N.D., Manitobans can order and pick up items from the U.S. that won’t ship to Canada.
Mason Peters, the shop’s owner, said the removal of testing requirements for short trips has been good for business.
“Biggest win in the last two years for our business and for our customers was the lifting of the PCR test,” said Peters. “For the last three days, it’s the first three days in two years that we’ve had real significant access to our customers again.”
But Peters said the ArriveCAN app has been causing some confusion for his Manitoba clients who make quick trips into the U.S. and then turn around and go home.
“I’ve spent the last hour today just helping someone who didn’t know how to fill out their ArriveCAN,” Peters said Thursday afternoon. “It really only takes about five minutes.”
The Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) declined an interview on the issue but in an emailed statement, a spokesperson said the CBSA has been clear regarding the mandatory use of the ArriveCAN app.
“This has not changed with the adjustment of testing requirements for those who depart and re-enter the country within 72 hours of leaving Canada,” the CBSA spokesperson said.
You can download the ArriveCAN app for free from the Google Play Store or App Store for iPhone. A web version is also available for people who don’t have a smartphone.
You can find more information on the federal government’s website.