Province plans to test truckers at Saint-Jacques border crossing, industry group says

Atlantic Trucking Association expects at-the-border voluntary testing to begin this week

The Atlantic Provinces Trucking Association says New Brunswick is planning to test truck drivers for COVID-19 when they cross the border from Quebec.

The goal is to test one in six truckers coming in on the Trans-Canada Highway at Saint-Jacques, near Edmundston, said Jean-Marc Picard, executive director of the Atlantic Provinces Trucking Association.

The testing will be voluntary, he said, and the industry expects it to begin this week.

“Initial reaction from the industry is really ‘OK, let’s get it done.’ It’s just a swab test,” he said.

The province has previously said truck drivers don’t have to self-isolate when they come into the province. They are one of the few workers exempted from the mandatory 14-day isolation period that everyone must undertake after entering New Brunswick.

Jean-Marc Picard, executive director of the Atlantic Provinces Trucking Association, says he does not expect it to be difficult for the province to test one of every six truckers driving into the province from Quebec on Highway 2. (Guillaume Aubut/Radio-Canada)

Picard said he expects enough truck drivers will opt for the border tests to meet the one in six expectation. About 600 trucks go through that border daily, coming from the United States, Ontario and Quebec, he said.

“We haven’t had a [Covid] case in drivers since the beginning,” he said. “We advised our membership, and everybody seems OK¬†with it.”

The state of emergency declaration bans all “non-essential” travel into New Brunswick, such as tourism and social visits. The province has been turning people back if their reasons for travel don’t meet the criteria. 

Essential travel includes people who work or need medical treatment in New Brunswick, commercial vehicle drivers, residents of Campobello Island entering to access essential goods or services, children sharing their time between parents, New Brunswick residents who have been out of province temporarily and Quebec residents who need essential services that are not available in Quebec.

The province has recently amended the order to include people who need to provide care for a palliative patient or have similar “humanitarian or compassionate purposes.” These people are approved by the chief medical officer of health and may or may not need to self-isolate for 14 days.

Testing already available

Asked Monday whether this border testing is going ahead, Public Health spokesperson Bruce Macfarlane wouldn’t confirm it. 

“Public Health is working with partners, including the Department of Public Safety, to investigate further options on testing New Brunswick long-haul truckers,” he said.

Macfarlane said long-haul truckers who are New Brunswick residents can call 811 and get a test at any time, even if they don’t have symptoms.

He said truck drivers who are asymptomatic and ask get voluntarily tested don’t have to self-isolate while they wait for results, nor do they need to self-isolate for 14 days if they test negative.

Picard said some truck drivers were already doing this.

“Some of them already go voluntarily to get tested just to make sure that their family is safe,” he said. “Especially if  they’ve been on the road for a few weeks.”

“It certainly is something that we support,” she said. “We’re not aware of any complaints at this time, and we think it’s a proactive measure.”.

Macfarlane said the province does not have the number of how many long-haul truck drivers have been tested since the border restrictions came into effect on March 25.

“At this moment, we don’t have that statistic unless they self-identified,” he said.

He said voluntary asymptomatic testing is available to other New Brunswick residents. These include asymptomatic close contacts of positive COVID-19 cases, asymptomatic health-care workers directly caring for COVID-19 patients, pre-operative patients scheduled for surgical procedures, and symptomatic provincial corrections clients where full 14 days of self-isolation is not feasible.

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