Feds loosen B.C. border restrictions for essential travel amid disaster

Travellers can fill up on gas, stock up on food south of the border

The B.C.-Washington state Peace Arch border crossing | Getty Images

British Columbians will be able to temporarily cross the border into Washington state to fill up their gas tanks without needing to present negative PCR tests for COVID-19 or face quarantine upon returning home.

Devastating floods crippled major highways in and out of southwestern B.C. last week, leading the provincial government to impose gas rationing on Friday in a bid to prioritize essential vehicles. Regular drivers may only fill up 30 litres of gas on any given visit.

But federal officials announced over the weekend that border measures introduced during the pandemic will be loosened to ease the strain on British Columbians’ own access to fuel and other essential items.

The Canada Border Services Agency said Sunday travellers and workers who must travel to the U.S. for essential reasons such as food, gas and facilitating supply chains will be exempt from pandemic-induced restrictions.

"But to be very clear, those exemptions do not apply to non-essential travel. It does apply to people who are required to travel over into the United States in order to access essential goods and services but it does not include family trips, vacations or other types of tourist activity,” Bill Blair, the federal minister of public safety and emergency preparedness, said during a Sunday briefing.

Some border restrictions were already set to loosen nationwide on November 30, with Ottawa dropping the requirement for negative PCR tests for COVID-19 for trips no longer than 72 hours.

American authorities opened their border to fully vaccinated Canadian travellers on November 8, however, Ottawa still required any travellers coming over the land border to produce a negative PCR test. U.S. authorities have no such requirement for those arriving at their border.

Mike Farnworth, B.C.’s minister of public safety and solicitor general, said the province has a “reduced but steady supply of gasoline” and that more would be coming in via truck and barge from Alberta, Washington state, Oregon and California.

In the meantime, he’s urging British Columbians to consider using transit, or else carpooling or walking to their destinations.