Motorists surprised by border restrictions

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BROCKVILLE — Confusion reigned at Canadian border crossings this week as fully-vaccinated residents returning from short hops to the United States were surprised by demands to produce a special government app to prove their vaccination status.

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Many of those without the ArriveCAN app on their smartphones were ordered to quarantine for 14 days and to provide two COVID tests to government agencies while in isolation.

Others returning to Canada were randomly chosen to take a COVID-19 test when they got home, according to two local residents who were selected. The test, which had to be done in front of a nurse on an internet portal, had to be sent back by courier within 24 hours.

Health Canada said the random mandatory tests are “part of Canada’s border testing surveillance program.”

Ron Smith of Brockville was one of the travellers caught unawares of the app requirement that was effective on Nov. 30.

Smith, a retired sports editor from The Recorder and Times, drove across the border to pick up two parcels from FedEx in Ogdensburg on Wednesday, one day after Transport Canada allowed fully-vaccinated Canadians to make trips of less than 72 hours to the United States without having to get an expensive PCR COVID test before returning.

At U.S. Customs, Smith was handed a form from the Canadian Border Services Agency telling him he needed a Canadian app before returning home.

Smith, who doesn’t own a cellphone, said he picked up his parcels, chatted for a few minutes with the FedEx clerk, then drove back to the border and lined up to get back into Canada.

The lineup seemed to be taking an unusually long time, Smith said, adding that motorists were spending five to 10 minutes at the Customs booth.

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