Ottawa clarifies COVID-19 travel exemption on B.C.-U.S. border during floods

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The federal minister for emergency preparedness says border guards have been advised that B.C. residents may cross into the United States for essential supplies due to flooding in the province, after some reportedly faced fines or were told That they will have to quarantine upon their return to Canada.

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Bill Blair said on Tuesday that the circumstances of those ticketed for allegedly violating quarantine restrictions are also being reviewed by Canada’s Public Health Agency.

Ottawa has approved exemptions from the B.C. government for travelers from specific areas along its south coast to travel to the US to buy gas or essential supplies and test negative PCR for the virus that causes COVID-19. return to Canada immediately without providing

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A statement from the Canada Border Services Agency said there may be a transition period that “could lead to certain discrepancies” when operational guidelines are changed.

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Dennis Wynette, vice president of the passenger branch and COVID task force at the agency, said “a couple dozen” individuals were fined during the 24-hour period, although he did not have exact numbers.

“We had to quickly change our approach and get our front-line officers to understand that we were going to broaden the application of that exemption,” Wynette said in an interview.

“Sadly, there was a short period of time when we were getting ready to transition where some individuals were referred to a public health agency and some were fined in a situation where we agreed that we will not actually issue fines.”

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He said the agency does not issue fines, but officials assess declarations filed by passengers on their return to determine whether they are eligible for any exemptions. If they are not, they are referred to a public health agency.

He said the decision on any punishment under the Quarantine Act rests with the public health agency or the police.

The Public Health Agency and the RCMP did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but Vignette confirmed that individuals crossing the border for essential goods are no longer being subjected to fines.

In its statement, the border agency says anyone who travels to the US for non-essential reasons to visit friends, eat at restaurants or go holiday shopping will not be covered by the relaxed rules.

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Blair says the travel exemption for essential supplies was reasonable, but cannot be misused.

“It doesn’t include visiting family and friends, engaging in recreational activities, and then gasping on the way,” he told reporters in Ottawa.

Border crossing officials and public health agency representatives must have the information they need to make the right decisions, Blair said, and “this clarity is provided.”

This story was produced with financial support from Facebook and the Canadian Press News Fellowship.

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