What does it mean for a Covid test to have been taken within 72 hours?
October 29, 2021 6:56 PM   Subscribe

We're driving into Canada to catch a flight to Europe, on a Tuesday. Canada requires we get a Covid test within 72 hours of applying to enter at the border. I'm kind of stuck on the 72-hour requirement and how to comply.

Problem #1: Our county (which is on a ferry-served island) is not administering Covid tests for travelers.

Problem #2: We could go to the mainland for a test, however the ferries are completely unreliable and we can't make reservations on them because something like 100 ferry workers refused to get vaccines and got fired. This is a major pain, expensive, and risky right before we're planning to leave town, particularly as it's around the Xmas season so travel is heavy then.

So, we're probably going to have to take a mail-in test.

Problem #d: The UPS stores here aren't open on weekends. If we ship the samples out on Friday, we should get the results by Monday, in time to cross the border Tuesday. So, the meaning of "within 72 hours" really matters.

I'm assuming that the end of the period is when I present myself and my test results at the Canadian border.

Is the start of the 72 hours measured from:

- When the results are stamped?
- When the sample left the UPS branch?
- When the sample was dropped off at the UPS branch?
- When the sample was taken? (There won't be proof of that anywhere, but it will obviously be before it was dropped off at UPS)

I'm guessing that the answer is "It depends on the person at the border and what kind of mood they're in." But if anyone has anything better than that, ideally an official statement from the Canadian government (which I cannot find online), that would be oh-so-helpful to us.
posted by Capri to Travel & Transportation (12 answers total)
It might help to get the type of test that has someone watch you do the test by remote video. Also, I'm not sure Canada will take self-administered/non-monitored tests.
For more specific help: Which crossing?
posted by dum spiro spero at 7:05 PM on October 29, 2021 [1 favorite]

Many international airports have testing available at or near the airport. This is probably your most reliable option.
posted by kdar at 7:08 PM on October 29, 2021 [3 favorites]

Best answer: The 72 hours starts when you take the test. You’d have to use a Labcorp Pixel PCR test and ship it on the Saturday via FedEx, or take a test on Saturday on the mainland.

Do you have to travel by ferry to the mainland anyway to get your flight from Canada? If it’s so unpredictable, could you just go to the mainland a day or two early (Sunday or Monday) and get a test with same-day results? You’d have to stay overnight of course. Then you’d be clear to drive across the border on Tuesday.
posted by sizeable beetle at 7:35 PM on October 29, 2021 [11 favorites]

I'm guessing that the answer is "It depends on the person at the border and what kind of mood they're in."

No, it's "was the time you took the test < 72 hours from the time you present at border control?". ArriveCAN, the officially recommended way of entering your health details to get into Canada, will nope the hell out if the time is too far in the past. There is no latitude: it's go/no go.
posted by scruss at 7:59 PM on October 29, 2021 [4 favorites]

Best answer: The test report has to have the date on which it was conducted on it and that's the date that is relevant at the border (it's quite clear on this page that you have to take the test within 72 hours. I'd assume testing companies are just going to put the date you shipped the package on there, so that has to be Saturday at the earliest. There's definitely no way you can ship the test on Friday and enter Canada on Tuesday.

Maybe you could find someone who is going to the mainland on Saturday morning who could bring your samples to a UPS drop-off for you (with a backup plan of heading to the mainland a day early if that doesn't work out)? You'll need to make sure you get a mail-in test that guarantees results within however many hours you have between when they will receive the package and when you'll arrive at the border.
posted by ssg at 8:01 PM on October 29, 2021

Response by poster: Sizeable beetle, thanks. This is probably our only option.
posted by Capri at 8:07 PM on October 29, 2021

If, by chance, you’re on the San Juans I can say that while reservations are no longer possible, I haven’t had trouble making it back and forth with reasonable early arrival. It’s a time consuming hassle (and $55) but I managed a doctor’s appointment in Anacortes last week without issue.
posted by lucasks at 9:58 PM on October 29, 2021

Speaking as a Canadian who had to take the PCR test to get home two weeks ago, oh yes, the timing matters. There is no leeway in the 72 hours thing. When I presented my results at customs, they were looking at the time and date the test was taken, not when the results came back and going from there. When it looked like my flight might be delayed --in the end it wasn't--I was panicking because I had timed it with at least an hour of flex, but anything more, and I would have a problem.
posted by Kitteh at 5:58 AM on October 30, 2021 [1 favorite]

They do accept molecular tests other than PCR. I was able to get a NAAT test (Abbott ID NOW) result in 15 minutes at an urgent care clinic. Do make sure your fill out your info in the ArriveCAN app ahead of time. It is required. When I did it I only had to upload my vax card and answer a bunch of questions, and then when I crossed the border (at the beginning of this month) they checked my paper copy of the test results.
posted by bread-eater at 8:14 AM on October 30, 2021 [1 favorite]

A lot of airports have testing facilities. When friends arrived for their flight to Canada and the airline noticed that it would be more than 72 hours from their test results when they landed in Canada, they were prohibited from boarding. However, they could get a rapid test at the airport and take the next flight. So you might check the airport and see if you can get to the airport early and get a test there.
posted by ldthomps at 11:30 AM on October 30, 2021 [2 favorites]

Air Canada has a Travel Ready page on their website that has has a lot of info about requirements in one place. You may want to cross-check with government sites to be safe, but I think it's pretty up-to-date.
posted by melissa at 12:29 PM on October 30, 2021

Yeah, if you can find a clinic or other facility that can do an NAAT test on the way, they take just a few minutes to get results. You could get the swab, go get coffee, and have your result in hand by the time you were done drinking it.
posted by potrzebie at 4:38 PM on October 30, 2021 [1 favorite]

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