Costly federal quarantine rules take effect Feb. 22

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at Friday's press conference.

New quarantine rules, in which Canadians returning from trips will have to stay in a hotel while waiting for COVID test results at a cost to them of some $2,000, take effect Feb. 22, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Friday morning. The order is retroactive to all who are abroad now as well as anyone who will be travelling in the future. Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing will take place at airports. Those with negative results will then have to quarantine at home for two weeks, and those with positive results will have to quarantine in a government-approved facility for two weeks.

Also, according to media reports, as of Feb. 15, people crossing a land border have to present a negative COVID test taken up to three days before. The penalty for not presenting a test is up to $3,000.

Further details were provided later Friday. As of Feb. 22, at the airport and land border, returning travelers will have to “answer eligibility and health screening questions, including quarantine plans; take a COVID-19 molecular test on arrival,” and “collect a test kit for use later during your quarantine.”

Trudeau said he was told people have been ignoring quarantine rules following trips. “We want to ensure the safety of Canadians,” he told reporters.

Exceptions will include health care and essential workers.

The Prime Minister announced in late January that while “fewer than two percent of COVID-19 cases are linked to Canadians coming back to the country, even one case is a case too many. Particularly, now, we must take into account the new variants of the virus.” Measures already in effect include planes only being allowed to land at airports in Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto and Montreal. As well, Air Canada, Air Transat, Sunwing and Westjet, as of Jan. 31, cancelled flights to Mexico and the Caribbean, until April 30; though not Florida.

During Friday’s press conference, it was pointed out that the Canadian Civil Liberties Association expressed concerns for Canadians who travelled abroad before Trudeau’s Jan. 29 announcement and those who cannot afford the $2,000 hotel stay. Trudeau was asked what evidence he has that Canadians are ignoring existing quarantine rules, and that the new rules are necessary.

Trudeau responded by saying PCR tests are necessary, and that rapid tests are not sufficient.

“It’s not a punitive measure to keep people in quarantine for three days while they get the result, it’s just so we can get a negative result off of that test. Anyone who shows up at a border crossing without an adequate quarantine plan is already directed to approved quarantine facilities so they can do it safely. Many people will choose to do it, particularly— in cases of new variants that are much more transmissible, it becomes extremely difficult to quarantine in a home and not pass this new variant to anyone else in the home.

“Every decision we’re taking is based on the best possible evidence, as we do everything we can to protect Canadians from these new variants.”

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