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Hotel quarantine for travellers to begin Feb. 22, Trudeau says

Click to play video 'New rules on non-essential travel to take effect in days' New rules on non-essential travel to take effect in days
WATCH: New rules on non-essential travel to take effect in days – Feb 12, 2021

New restrictions for incoming travellers will come into effect on Feb. 22, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced on Friday — including a fresh hotel quarantine requirement.

“These measures will take effect starting Feb. 22,” Trudeau said, speaking from the front steps of Rideau Cottage.

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Trudeau says hotel quarantine for travellers to begin Feb. 22 – Feb 12, 2021

Read more: COVID-19: Snowbird calls mandatory hotel quarantines and ever-changing travel rules ‘ludicrous’

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Trudeau added that there will be exceptions to these new restrictions, particularly for truckers and health-care workers travelling into Canada.

“We’re not trying to punish people, we’re trying to keep people safe,” he said.

“These border measures will help stop the spread of COVID-19 and new variants.”

In late January, Trudeau announced that travellers arriving in the country by air will have to take a mandatory PCR coronavirus test. While they await the results of that test, they will be forced to quarantine at a hotel for up to three days — on their own dime.

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Trudeau had previously said that the cost for this hotel stay is “expected to be more than $2,000.”

“Those with negative test results will then be able to quarantine at home under significantly increased surveillance and enforcement,” Trudeau said at the time.

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“Those with positive tests will be immediately required to quarantine in designated government facilities to make sure they’re not carrying variants of potential concern.”

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England’s COVID-19 hotel quarantine rules to commence – Feb 14, 2021

During multiple press conferences on Friday, government ministers and officials explained that travellers arriving in Canada will have to take three separate COVID-19 tests. The first is taken no more than 72 hours before arrival, and then another will be taken upon arrival at the Canadian border or airport.

Travellers will then be provided with an additional testing kit upon arrival, which is to be used 10 days later for a third and final test.t.

Click to play video 'New hotel quarantine measures in effect Feb. 22' New hotel quarantine measures in effect Feb. 22
New hotel quarantine measures in effect Feb. 22 – Feb 12, 2021

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Speaking in a separate press conference on Friday, Health Minister Patty Hajdu provided more details on the mandatory hotel quarantine all air travellers will have to undertake upon their arrival in Canada.

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“It is up to the traveller to choose where they wish to stay, and book in advance of departure,” Hajdu said.

She explained the government-approved hotels will be listed on a booking website as of Feb. 18. They are all located near airports in the four cities currently allowed to accept international flights: Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto and Montreal.

“Costs of these hotel stays may vary slightly at each location,” said Hajdu.

“The price will include costs associated with the room, food, cleaning, infection prevention and control measures, and security as well as transportation.”

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Coronavirus: Trudeau outlines government’s reasoning behind new PCR test, quarantine requirements for travellers – Feb 12, 2021

If a traveller’s test result comes back negative, they are allowed to leave the quarantine hotel for home, or to catch their connecting flight to their final destination.

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However, this result could take up to three days to come through — a reality that Public Safety Minister Bill Blair said travellers are responsible for understanding.

“If you are travelling, it is your responsibility to understand and to follow all of the rules,” Blair said.

Read more: Travellers to pay ‘more than $2K’ for new mandatory COVID-19 hotel quarantine, Trudeau says

The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) has said that the federal government is turning to private security firms to help enforce the 14-day mandatory quarantine and conduct in-person compliance visits.

Contracts totalling $2 million have been awarded to G4S Secure Solutions (Canada) Ltd., GardaWorld and Paladin Risk Solutions, according to PHAC. The Canadian Corps of Commissionaires, a non-profit that hires Canadian Armed Forces veterans and retired RCMP officers, has also been tapped to help with in-person visits.

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‘Nobody wants a third wave’ of COVID-19 infections, Trudeau says – Feb 12, 2021

The new restrictions come in addition to the mandatory 14-day quarantine people arriving in Canada have been required to undertake for almost a year now, as well as fresh restrictions for travellers arriving at Canada’s land borders.

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As of Monday, travellers arriving at Canada’s land border will be required to present a negative COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours of their arrival.

While Canada can’t technically turn away its citizens who don’t arrive equipped with a negative test, Trudeau said on Tuesday that the government has other tools at its disposal to ensure compliance. He said failure to present such a test could result in “severe penalties,” including fines of up to $3,000 per person.

Trudeau also said the government will be implementing new measures to ensure “extensive follow up by Health Canada” to ensure they are getting tested and properly quarantining.

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Speaking during a technical briefing on the new measures, a Canada Border Services Agency official warned travellers to expect longer wait times at the border as a result of the precautions.

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He added that the CBSA “will not compromise” the health and safety of Canadians for the sake of border wait times.

In response to concerns from reporters that the measures could limit those who must travel for medical or emergency reasons, Trudeau said the government is “aware” of the need to be “thoughtful and compassionate about people who are in extremely difficult situations and absolutely need to travel.”

“We will continue to work with people and the ministers involved will continue to watch closely for additions or adjustments that need to be made to these measures,” Trudeau said.”But every step of the way, what we are doing is to keep all Canadians safe.”

The new measures apply to all travellers — even those who have already received the vaccine, officials confirmed.

Click to play video 'Coronavirus: Health minister details new COVID-19 measures affecting land and air travellers entering Canada' Coronavirus: Health minister details new COVID-19 measures affecting land and air travellers entering Canada
Coronavirus: Health minister details new COVID-19 measures affecting land and air travellers entering Canada – Feb 12, 2021

However, there are groups that will be exempt from the land border measures, including the truck drivers who account for most of the cross-border travel.

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In an email to Global News, a spokesperson for the CBSA confirmed that 93 per cent of those crossing at the border are exempt from the restrictions.

“The vast majority of those travelling by land (93%) are exempt from quarantine requirements,” read the email.

Meanwhile, the airline industry welcomed aspects of the air travel measures — but not the entire thing.

“We have been major proponents of a testing regime for aviation and have been pursuing that initiative with the federal government for many months,” said Mike McNaney, president and CEO of the National Airlines Council of Canada.

However, he added, “we did not feel that quarantine hotel measures were necessary.”

In conjunction with airlines, the government has also taken steps to make it harder for Canadians to access sunny vacation destinations. In late January, Trudeau said Air Canada, WestJet, Sunwing and Air Transat have all agreed to cancel air services to “all Caribbean destinations and Mexico.”

Read more: Coronavirus: 6.3M travellers entered Canada and didn’t have to quarantine

The cancellations will continue until April 30.

McNaney said he hopes the resumption of service after April 30 can also include a clear plan for scaling airline industry back to its normal levels.

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“We now need to work to have in place for April 30 a true testing and quarantine strategy in place to enable the safe restart and recovery of the sector,” he said.

“We need to get engaged in that process now, with the goal that as of April 30th, you would have a clear initial strategy and approach to how we are going to tie testing to quarantine measures that are adjusted downward, and you would integrate in rapid antigen testing into the testing process.”

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