British Colombians in parts hit by the province’s floods will be allowed to cross into the U.S. and return for some emergency purposes without a COVID-19 vaccination or PCR test, federal officials said Sunday.
The Canadian Border Services Agency was working with U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to allow residents of disaster areas to enter the U.S. for emergency reasons, case by case, Border Security Secretary Bill Blair said Sunday. .
“This is something I can believe can be accommodated under the exemption regulations that currently exist, but to be very clear, these exemptions do not apply to non-essential travel,” Blair said.
Blair stressed that the exemptions were not a general permit for British Colombians to go south for leisure purposes and that there was no guarantee that U.S. officials would allow an individual to cross on any particular occasion.
Current Canadian border regulations, which require vaccination to pass in the U.S. and a valid PCR test upon return, remain in force, he said, but CBSA officials in BC have been instructed to apply exemptions to residents affected by the disaster.
Floods BC: The province opens the second corridor between the Lower, Inland Continent
“To be very clear to people, activities such as visiting a family on vacation, checking your home or attending a social event, would not be considered essential in these circumstances,” Blair said.
“But it will allow someone living in a border community in Canada to travel to the United States for the purpose of obtaining essential goods, such as food and other supplies, and returning without requesting a PCR test.”
Floods BC: Abbotsford partially opens its doors to release water
Canada has no jurisdiction over U.S. CBP officers, Blair said, but noted that they are aware of the extreme circumstances in Canada.
“Canadians will have to abide by all the requirements of the United States to enter their country, including the submission of proper travel documents,” Blair said.
Extraordinary reasons for crossing the border may include the need to travel across the U.S. to circumvent Canadian highway closures, or the need to purchase essential supplies such as gas or food not available in BC.
BC Floods: It May Take Weeks to Overcome Fuel Shortage, Analyst Says
On Friday, the federal government announced that, as of Nov. 30, fully vaccinated Canadians would not need a molecular test to re-enter the country as long as they were abroad for less than three days.
To allow British Columbians to make quick trips across the border to shop, the BC government had asked Ottawa to make that change as soon as possible.
UN Public Safety Secretary Mike Farnworth said the federal changes should help British Colombians have access to essential supplies, mainly gasoline, which was being rationalized in the province due to supply chain problems.
“It was not intended for Black Friday purchases, but for essential supplies and gasoline in particular,” Farnworth said.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was scheduled to meet with the Cabinet Incident Response Team on Sunday for an update on the situation in BC.
British Columbia has opened two motorways between Lower Mainland and the rest of the province. All major roads between the populated urban center and the interior were interrupted by numerous landslides caused by heavy rains last weekend.
Floods BC: Landslide death toll rises on Highway 99
At least four people have been confirmed dead and heavy flooding continues to affect several communities.
The Canadian Armed Forces are deployed in BC and a Royal Canadian Air Force CC-177 Globemaster arrived in the province on Saturday, delivering three CH-146 Griffon helicopters from the 430 tactical helicopter squadron to assist.
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