Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has announced stricter travel-related coronavirus restrictions that will require travelers entering the country to go into quarantine in hotels at their own expense. In addition, flights to Mexico and Caribbean countries will be suspended until April 30.
The implementation of the stricter rules comes in response to the emergence of new strains of the virus, some of which have been shown to be more contagious.
“New variants of Covid-19 pose a real challenge to Canada. That’s why we need to take extra measures,” Trudeau said Friday.
The prime minister said that people arriving at Canadian airports will have to undergo mandatory PCR testing in addition to presenting a negative test result before they board their flight.
“Travelers will then have to wait for up to three days at an approved hotel for their test results, at their own expense, which is expected to be more than [CAD] $2,000,” he said.
“Those with negative test results will then be able to quarantine at home under significantly increased surveillance and enforcement.”
Under existing rules, people entering Canada are required to self-isolate for 14 days. Now, after people leave hotel quarantine, security contractors will visit Canadians’ homes to check that they are completing their full isolation period.
The high price for the three-day hotel stay includes the cost of a private PCR test, security and food. It takes into account the cost of the measures designated hotels will have to implement to ensure the safety of their workers.
“The cost is a ballparking. This isn’t like any other facility. This is one where there has to be infection prevention control measures, security and other costs as well. It’s not just a regular stay at a hotel,” said Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer.
She said that travelers will also have to be tested 10 days after they enter the country.
Trudeau said that people who test positive will be immediately transferred to government quarantine facilities where further testing will determine if they are infected with strains of particular concern, such as those originating in the United Kingdom and South Africa.
The prime minister also announced that his government and the main Canadian airlines have agreed to a suspension of all flights to so-called sun destinations. Air Canada, WestJet, Sunwing, and Air Transat will cancel all services to Mexico and Caribbean destinations starting Sunday until April 30, Trudeau said.
He made it clear that the aim is to discourage all nonessential travel, not just holiday trips to Mexico and the Caribbean.
“With the challenges we currently face with Covid-19, both here at home and abroad, we all agree that now is just not the time to be flying,” Trudeau said.
“By putting in place these tough measures now, we can look forward to a better time, when we can all plan those vacations.”
The suspension of flights is a heavy blow for the Mexican tourism sector, which had its most difficult year in living memory in 2020. It comes just three days after a rule requiring travelers to the United States to present a negative Covid-19 test result took effect. The U.S. testing requirement and a new quarantine directive are expected to hurt Mexico’s tourism industry. The new Canadian restrictions will only exacerbate the pain.
Trudeau said that Canadian airlines will make arrangements with customers already in Mexico and Caribbean destinations to organize their return flights. He said that starting next week, all incoming international passenger flights must land at the airports in one of four cities: Vancouver, Toronto, Calgary and Montreal.
From there they will be taken to designated quarantine hotels.
The prime minister also said that in the coming weeks Canada will require nonessential travelers to show a negative test before entry at the land border with the U.S.
The Mexico-United States border remains, in theory, closed to nonessential travel. There are no testing requirements for essential travelers in either direction.
Unlike many countries, Mexico has not restricted flights from any foreign nation during the coronavirus pandemic. It hasn’t required foreign travelers or Mexicans returning home to quarantine upon arrival in the country either.
Source: AP (en)