The border crossing between the U.S. and Canada in Houlton. Credit: Alexander MacDougall / Houlton Pioneer Times

HOULTON, Maine — Canadians and their family members who are residing in Maine may soon be subject to further restrictions when crossing the international border into Canada.

Anyone entering Canada via the land border with the United States will have to present proof of a negative COVID-19 test starting sometime within the next few weeks, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Friday.

The changes are being made out of concern about the new variants of the COVID-19 virus reported in the United Kingdom and South Africa, which have been reported to have a higher infection rate. There also are concerns that the variants may cause a higher mortality rate and may be less responsive to the available vaccines.

“We’re working to stand up additional testing requirements for land travel,” Trudeau said. “We will also, in the coming weeks, be requiring non-essential travelers to show a negative test before entry at the land border.”

In addition, all international passenger flights arriving in Canada must arrive only at the Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto or Montreal airports, Trudeau said. All passengers arriving in Canada via air travel must also take a COVID-19 test and stay for up to three days at an approved hotel while awaiting their test results. The hotel stays will be at the passengers’ own expense, which Trudeau said could be up to $2,000.

While cases have been slowly declining in the United States and Canada, concerns regarding new COVID variants reported in other countries have put nations on high alert to prevent any hindrance of vaccination campaigns. The variant found in the United Kingdom is considered to be more infectious and more deadly, according to UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

The variant found in South Africa has also raised concerns, after Johnson & Johnson’s single shot vaccine results showed lower efficacy rates in South Africa compared to those in the United States.

The U.S.-Canada border has been closed since March 2020, with only Canadian citizens, Americans with dual citizenship and family members and romantic partners allowed to cross for non-essential travel purposes.

Restrictions already in place included mandatory 14-day quarantine periods upon arrival in Canada, and presentation of a negative COVID-19 test result prior to boarding a flight into Canada.