New measures forcing air travellers to foot the bill for a mandatory hotel quarantine after arriving in Canada will come into effect on Feb. 22, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Friday.
Under the new rules, travellers returning to Canada will be required to take a COVID-19 test at the airport at their own expense. They’ll then be required to spend the first three days of their quarantine at a supervised hotel while awaiting their results, and foot the bill for their stay, expected to cost upwards of $2,000.
Travellers will be required to book their government-authorized hotel stay in advance starting Feb. 18.
During a media briefing Friday, federal Health Minister Patty Hajdu said the hotels, located near the four international airports accepting foreign flights, will vary in cost, however the price of each stay will include hotel fees, food, and travel expenses.
Those with negative results will be allowed to board a connecting flight to their final destination within Canada and serve the remainder of their two-week quarantine at home, while those with positive tests will be sent to government-designated facilities.
Starting Feb.15, people arriving in Canada by land borders must also show a negative COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours of arrival.
As of Feb. 22, these travellers will also be required to take a COVID-19 molecular test on arrival, as well as towards the end of their 14-day quarantine.
Essential workers such as truck drivers and emergency service providers, which account for 93 per cent of travellers crossing the border during this time, will be exempt from this requirement. Any other exemptions will be assessed on a case-by-case basis.
All travellers, whether arriving by land or air, will be required to submit their travel plans, contact information, and details on a “suitable” quarantine plan, using the ArriveCAN app, which helps facilitate travel to Canada from abroad, before crossing the border or boarding a flight.
Speaking to reporters Friday, Trudeau said the measures are not meant to punish people, but to keep them safe and discourage non-essential travel.
“We’re aware that we need to be thoughtful and compassionate about people who are in extremely difficult situations and absolutely need to travel,” he said.
“We’re not trying to punish people, we’re trying to keep people safe. And keeping Canadians safe from the virus is discouraging all non-essential travel and ensuring that if people do have to travel, they’re doing the things that we can be certain are going to prevent the virus from spreading further in Canada, particularly given new variants.
Trudeau notes that the requirement of a PCR test on arrival in Canada means there may be a two to three-day window before those test results are available.
“As soon as they get the result of that PCR test they will be free to go home and quarantine themselves,” he said.
“It’s not a punitive measure to keep people in quarantine for three days before they get the result. It’s just so that we can get the negative result off of that test.”
International flights are only arriving at airports in Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto and Montreal. Those arriving in Canada are already subject to a mandatory 14-day quarantine and many must show proof of a negative COVID-19 test within three days of their arrival.
More details regarding the mandatory hotel quarantine are expected to be unveiled later Friday during a technical briefing.
Trudeau says there will be exceptions for some essential workers but noted no one should be travelling for any non-essential reason right now. He said this is especially important as new, more contagious variants of the novel coronavirus emerge around the world.
“Nobody wants a third wave to start, particularly not one comprised of new, more communicable variants that can cause real challenges,” he told reporters Friday.
The federal government is also investing $53 million into monitoring, detecting, and tracking these variants.