Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Saturday May 29, 2021
Government Advisory Panel Calls For An End To Canadian Quarantine Hotels
As the US continues its reopening after COVID-19 pandemic measures, Canada’s restrictions are gradually lifting in some provinces as vaccination numbers increase. Nonetheless, the controversial quarantine hotels are still in place as a precaution against the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus — a requirement that some experts are now calling upon the government to lift.
A new report has been released from the COVID-19 Testing and Screening Expert Advisory Panel, a group providing guidance to the federal government, detailing these recommendations. “The current requirement for all air travellers to quarantine in government-authorized accommodations should be discontinued,” writes the panel of doctors and advisors. “However, travellers subject to quarantine must provide a suitable quarantine plan for approval and then adhere to this plan. If the traveller does not have a suitable quarantine plan, they should be required to adhere to an alternative one (for example, in designated quarantine facilities).”
Other factors that play into the recommendation include the administrative costs that these hotels use (and the resources drawn from other pandemic response), as well as the cost to travelers themselves. “Travellers face an added cost (up to $2000 CAD per person), time commitment and a burden to book government-authorized accommodation,” notes the report, which points out that some travelers are bypassing the hotels by crossing into Canada by land from the US. There have been cases where prospective visitors have even falsified test result paperwork to avoid the quarantine (charges were later laid).
Introduced earlier this year, the quarantine hotels, meant to reduce casual, non-essential travel to or from Canada, have been largely successful in their intended goal. The mandatory three night stay at a pre-booked quarantine hotel while awaiting results of a PCR (polymerase chain reactions) test discouraged many from flying: February data from the Canadian Border Security Agency showed a decrease of almost 55 per cent in terms of passengers flying into Canada after the quarantine hotel restrictions were implemented. During that month, the Canadian government also began routing all international flights, including those from the US that had been previously exempted, through four airports: Toronto, Montreal, Calgary and Vancouver. (Forbes)