The cost for a COVID-19 test required for traveling could surprise people planning trips to Canada and other locations that require a negative test to enter.

As the Canadian border reopened this week, entering the country came with requirements that travelers show proof of vaccination, as well as having had a negative COVID-19 test conducted 72 hours prior to their travel across the border.

The Associated Press, reporting on the border reopening, said some pharmacy clinics were charging $140 for same-day tests and $125 for delivery of results in 24 to 48 hours.

Most travel restrictions also require the test to either be a PCR or RNA test, which typically take longer for results. Rapid antigen tests and test kits are not accepted.

According to CVS Pharmacy, “voluntary testing for travel” means people can get a test for any reason, with no screening required. CVS spokesperson Tara Burke said the pharmacy offers a $139 PCR test for travel that comes with a 1 to 2 day turnaround.

The company website says insurance is typically not accepted for voluntary testing purposes, but notes that “if you are symptomatic or have been exposed to a COVID-19 patient, you may qualify for no-cost testing through your insurance.”

Representatives from Walgreens did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Some area residents hoping to travel to Canada say they have been unable to obtain free COVID-19 tests, with insurance companies saying they will not pay for elective, travel-related tests, but only for tests administered because the person has COVID-19 symptoms or has been in recent close contact with someone with COVID-19.

According to Maine CDC spokesman Robert Long, people with no symptoms can arrange with a “swab and send” site to get tested at no patient cost. Most of those sites require an appointment.

“Some sites do both swab and send testing and testing for procedures or other reasons, so those seeking a free test should ensure that the folks at the testing site know that they want to be tested through the swab and send program,” he said.

A list of “swab and send” testing sites can be found at www.maine.gov/covid19/keepmainehealthy/testing.


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