BARRIE -- The United States opened its land border to Canadians fully vaccinated against COVID-19 on Monday, but a mandatory negative PCR test upon arrival back in Canada may be dissuading some consumers from making the trip to America to shop.

That’s according to David Soberman, a professor of marketing at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management.

He said cross-border shopping trips likely won’t be as popular as in previous years, namely because of the testing requirements to re-enter Canada.

“The PCR tests are quite expensive and you need to get one in order to cross back into Canada,” he said.

Currently, anyone entering Canada must show proof of a negative PCR test for COVID-19 taken no more than 72 hours before their arrival at the border.

Those tests are to be taken at the traveller’s expense, and while the costs of PCR tests vary, they often carry a price tag of more than $100.

“People often go on these shopping trips with their families, and so if you have a family of like four people or more, this suddenly becomes a big expense,” Soberman said.


According to Soberman, in previous years there were larger price differences on many items in the U.S. and Canada.

“There’s been a lot more equalization,” he said. “And part of that has been caused by online shopping.”

However, Soberman said some items, such as flat screen televisions or appliances, may still be significantly less expensive in the U.S.

Soberman said while some people might still be willing to cross the border to buy those items, the majority of cross-border shoppers are people who visit outlet malls, Walmart or Target and who aren’t going to spend large sums of money.

He said for most people who fall into that category, the money they might save on buying items in the U.S. might not be worth paying for the $100-$200 PCR test.

Soberman said the government has created a “huge hassle cost” for cross-border shopping by mandating PCR tests.

This includes the cost of the test, having the test performed and waiting for the result.

“All of these things are significant in relation to the amount of saving that the average cross-border shopper is going to make,” he said.

What’s more, Soberman said when hassle costs are significant, there’s a “noticeable difference in the behaviours that people have.”


On Monday, several mayors and public officials of border communities in Canada and the U.S. held a virtual press conference to implore the Canadian government to drop the mandatory PCR test rule for those returning to Canada.

The leaders cited several reasons the mandatory PCR tests should be scrapped, including preventing more needed travel and delaying family reunification.

Windsor, Ont. Mayor Drew Dilkens said the requirements were a “hard-stop barrier for families to reunite except [the] wealthiest of Canadians.”

“And that is unfair,” he said.

Niagara Mayor Jim Diodati said in order to make the border “truly” open, the government needs to remove the “senseless PCR test, the molecular test,” adding that it “does nothing to make things safer.”

New York Congressman Brian Higgins called the rule a “redundant, unnecessary testing requirement.”


According to Soberman, there might be an increase in the number of people crossing the border to shop if the government decides to switch the requirement from a PCR test to an antigen test.

Antigen tests – commonly referred to as rapid tests – are more affordable, though access to them varies across the country.

Asked by CTV News Channel on Monday if rapid antigen tests would be a suitable switch for travellers at the border, Dr. Kwadwo Kyeremanteng, an ICU and palliative care doctor at the Ottawa Hospital, said they are an “excellent and practical alternative,” and also cheaper.

“And to be frank, I think we probably underutilize them throughout this pandemic,” he said.

Rapid antigen tests have not been as widely used in Canada, as they are not considered as sensitive to the novel coronavirus as PCR tests.

However, Kyeremanteng said the rapid antigen tests are a “great measure” because they tell you if you’re infectious within approximately 15 minutes, and if you’re likely to be transmitting the virus.

“When we’ve done the precautions like you can’t come across when you’re symptomatic, you have to be vaccinated -- double vaccinated-- and then you add on top of that the access to a test, which, in my mind a rapid test would be totally sensible, I think there’s probably a missed opportunity there,” he said.

Speaking at a press conference last week, Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer, Dr. Theresa Tam, said the country’s policy on PCR test requirements at the Canadian border for travellers vaccinated against COVID-19 is being “actively looked at.”

“Just to reassure everybody, we are looking at that quite carefully,” she said.

In an email to on Tuesday, the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) said the federal government “reviews border and travel measures on an ongoing basis,” adding that the country’s border measures were changed to allow fully vaccinated foreign nationals into Canada on Sept. 7.

“Since then, testing and quarantine measures have not changed,” the statement read.

PHAC said the border testing measures are “a critical part of Canada’s COVID-19 surveillance strategy,” which “help detect variants of concern and vaccine-escape variants.”

The agency cautioned that while cases are rare, “even fully vaccinated individuals can become infected with the virus that causes COVID-19.”

“Molecular tests have a significantly high sensitivity for the detection of early-stage cases of COVID-19,” the statement read. “For this reason, a pre-arrival molecular test is required in order to reduce the greatest extent possible, the importation of cases, the risks of transmission in transit, and risks to Canada’s domestic health care system.”


It was not immediately clear how many people haven taken advantage of the loosened restrictions at the land border. reached out to Canada Border Services Agency on Monday to ask how many Canadians have crossed the border to shop, but the agency said it cannot release data regarding reason or length of travel.

The most recent total traveller numbers released by the agency did not include data for Monday.

Similarly, asked the United States Customs and Border Protection how many vehicles had crossed the land border on Monday since the restrictions had been lifted, and how many cited ‘shopping’ as their reason for travel, but a spokesperson for the agency said that it is “not a datapoint we track.” 

-With files from CTV Windsor's Bob Bellacicco