Optimism rises in wake of border test rules fall

For two years, Carole Manzie-Burk has been a 10-minute drive from half of her family, but hasn’t been able to visit them.

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For two years, Carole Manzie-Burk has been a 10-minute drive from half of her family, but hasn’t been able to visit them.

Manzie-Burk lives on the Canadian side of the international border near Emerson; her brother lives on the American side.

COVID-19 has slammed the door on non-essential land crossings between the two countries for most of the pandemic. Even when non-essential travel has been allowed, since November, virus testing requirements discouraged many Manitobans from making the trip.

Now, such family reunions and day trips aren’t far away.

A federal source, who is not authorized to speak publicly, told The Canadian Press on Wednesday that Canadians will no longer need to show a negative COVID-19 test at international border crossings, starting April 1. The official announcement is set for later this week.

“That’s super,” Manzie-Burk, 80, said Wednesday. “It was two years ago, in January, I last saw my brother. I miss my brother. I miss my friends there.

“That’s great news.”

Manzie-Burk said she hasn’t been able to visit her sibling, who lives in a small town in Minnesota, since early in 2020.

Even when non-essential trips at land and ferry ports began to be allowed late last year, she didn’t go across, citing the expense for a molecular test when all she wanted was to spend an afternoon visiting before returning to Canada.

“It was two years ago, in January, I last saw my brother. I miss my brother. I miss my friends there,” said Carole Manzie-Burk.

Manzie-Burk, who was born in the United States and came to Canada decades ago after marrying a Canadian, said even a recent change — allowing a Canadian to present a negative rapid test at the border — proved unhelpful because there was no place near the border to obtain it.

“If you’re triple-vaxed, like I am, why should we have to do anything?” she said. “If I have my vaccination card, why can’t I just show that?”

Simon Resch, co-owner of the Emerson Duty Free Shop, said having to find someplace in the United States to get a rapid test — and have it monitored by a health professional — was the last big hurdle stopping Manitobans from venturing across the border.

Whether it is to pick up packages at a private postal outlet in Pembina, N.D., or a weekend shopping trip to Grand Forks or Fargo, Resch said he is looking towards a long-awaited surge in business, as more Canadians stop in to get discounted liquor, perfume or other items before crossing the border.

“My phone has been lit up for the last two hours,” he said Wednesday, after news of the upcoming change.

“We most definitely have champagne here. This is two years in the making and — hopefully — the official announcement comes (Thursday) to confirm it.”

Simon Resch said having to find someplace in the United States to get a rapid test was the last big hurdle stopping Manitobans from venturing across the border. (John Woods / Candian Press files)

However, Resch said, his outlook is tempered by the knowledge it could quickly change if novel coronavirus case numbers surge again.

“We’ve been waiting a long time to hear this, but Omnicron (variant) is still out there and COVID is still out there,” he said. “But we do seem to be in a good spot now.”

Resch said the next step would be for Ottawa to drop the need for Canadians to fill in the ARRIVECan app, where they input proof of vaccination and other information before arriving at the border station.

“I’m in favour of dropping all of the requirements,” he said.

Meanwhile, Manzie-Burk said she’s especially pleased with the upcoming rules change, because her family has been in a health-care race to get across the border.

“My sister has been diagnosed with dementia,” she said. “I want to take her to see our brother in Minnesota. I also want to take her to see our family in South Dakota before she gets any worse.

“I’m not going for shopping… I’m glad this is changing.”

kevin.rollason@freepress.mb.ca

Kevin Rollason

Kevin Rollason
Reporter

Kevin Rollason is one of the more versatile reporters at the Winnipeg Free Press. Whether it is covering city hall, the law courts, or general reporting, Rollason can be counted on to not only answer the 5 Ws — Who, What, When, Where and Why — but to do it in an interesting and accessible way for readers.

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Updated on Thursday, March 17, 2022 12:10 AM CDT: Fixes typo.

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