Bargain-hunting British Columbians head south as COVID-19 border test requirement lifts

Click to play video: 'British Columbians take advantage of COVID-19 border testing change'
British Columbians take advantage of COVID-19 border testing change
British Columbians were quick to take advantage of Canada dropping its requirement for a COVID-19 test before crossing the border. Parking lots in Bellingham, Washington were dotted with B.C. plates, Friday, as Canadians flocked south for cheaper gas and groceries. John Hua reports – Apr 1, 2022

It was a big day in Bellingham for cross-border shoppers. Many British Columbians took advantage of the end of having to show a negative COVID-19 test to reenter Canada.

“It’s going to make life simpler, a lot of trips more often, more likely,” Brent Jackson told Global News as he filled up on American gas.

“One of our kids has a big truck, and I know he’ll take the opportunity to cross the border on a regular basis to fill up, because it will save him an enormous amount of money.”

Read more: Vaccinated travellers no longer need pre-entry COVID-19 tests to enter Canada

As of Friday, only unvaccinated or partially-vaccinated travellers will need to provide a negative test or proof they recently recovered from COVID to enter Canada. Though, travellers entering Canada will also still need to fill out the ArriveCAN app.

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North Surrey resident Pamela Blackmon, who said she’d crossed regularly into Washington under the old rules, at great expense,  called the changes “a big deal.”

Click to play video: 'Tourism industry welcomes lifting of COVID-related travel restrictions'
Tourism industry welcomes lifting of COVID-related travel restrictions

“It’s exciting for me because it’s like a mini-vacay,” she said, adding that she likes to visit the area to run on the local trails, and to shop.

“The meat and cheese and eggs and the gas of course,” she said. “I think it’s going to be exhilarating for people who do cross-border shopping.”

The savings for cross-border shoppers on those key items are significant, based on prices observed by Global News on Friday.

After converting to Canadian dollars, a typical jug of whole milk in Bellingham sold for $2.49, while the same product in B.C. was $5.89.

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Read more: COVID-19 will be with us for ‘foreseeable future’ PHAC says, warning of future waves

A carton of 18 large white eggs in Bellingham was the equivalent of $3.12 Canadian compared to $5.89 in B.C.

A loaf of whole wheat bread, on the other hand, actually cost more in Washington, retailing for the equivalent of $2.49 Canadian at Fred Meyer, but available in B.C. for $2.29.

And then there’s the gas, which was selling for US$4.29 per gallon, which according to converts to about CAD$1.42 per litre.

Click to play video: 'Infectious disease specialist says B.C. transitioning to endemic'
Infectious disease specialist says B.C. transitioning to endemic

And while some shoppers loaded up on bargain basics, others flocked to U.S. stores like Trader Joes for the first taste of a favourite treat in a long time.

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Peter Musser made the trip down to snag the special granola his pregnant partner was craving.

Read more: COVID-19: Total deaths in B.C. top 3,000, cases in ICU lowest since early August

“I’m going to be here a lot more,” he said.

“It’s just nice to have something a little different I guess.”

Of course, not everyone headed south on Friday was going shopping. For some, like Priscila Owen and her husband Kendall, the new rules were a chance for a visit long-delayed by the pandemic.

Owen told Global News she’d moved to Utah to be with her fiancé just two weeks before the border was closed in 2020, derailing plans for her family to attend her wedding.

Finally, after two years the family was able to reconnect.

Read more: Canada’s travel rules just changed. What’s new, and what’s the same?

“It will make life so much easier, I know I can come back and visit my family now since we live so far away, and just knowing that makes us so much happier,” she said.

“We were finally able to come back across the border, our first time back into Canada since the start of the pandemic,” Kendall added. “It was awesome to be able to see things once again and be reunited with family.”

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The relaxed restrictions also meant her father was able to escort the couple back across the border as they started their long drive home.

“We spent a long time, two years, to see them again,” father David Ramirez said.

“We are really happy.”

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