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‘They want to lock us into a hotel’: Snowbirds criticize new travel measures

Click to play video 'COVID-19 travel measures critisized by Canadian snowbirds' COVID-19 travel measures critisized by Canadian snowbirds
Upon return to Canada, travellers are now required to foot the bill for a COVID-19 test and a few nights at a hotel awaiting the results – Feb 22, 2021

Canadian snowbirds say they shouldn’t be lumped in with other incoming Canadian travellers, who, beginning Monday, will be forced to quarantine at a hotel for three days when they arrive back in the country as they await negative COVID-19 test results on their own dime.

Greater Toronto Area couple Gerald Berish and Roberta Smith-Berish left for Deerfield Beach, Fla., in December. The couple were able to get fully vaccinated there in January.

“We feel very fortunate to be here enjoying somewhat of a normal lifestyle,” said Berish.

Read more: Coronavirus: Travellers react as new testing, quarantine requirements begin at Canadian airports

However, things aren’t so normal for the couple when it comes to planning the trip home. The pair argue that since they are fully vaccinated, they should be able to quarantine at home immediately instead of having to spend three days in a hotel, an expense that could cost people up to $2,000.

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“We would have no trouble getting a test, showing our vaccination certificates, getting on a plane, flying to Toronto,” Berish said.

“But then (the government wants) to lock us into a hotel.”

Nainesh Kotak, a personal injury lawyer and founder of Kotak Law, says “right now the law doesn’t allow them to do that.”

“There’s no distinguishing between travellers. The reality is for someone who’s travelled during the pandemic, there are inherent risks.”

Read more: No sympathy for snowbirds: Most Canadians support travel restrictions, Ipsos poll finds

Valorie Crooks, who is Canada’s research chair in health service geographies, says most snowbirds who travelled abroad did so near the end of last year before new variants came into play and prior to highly criticized news of politicians going on vacation.

Crooks says messaging from the feds on travelling needed to be clearer, especially for the thousands of snowbirds who travel abroad each year as part of their lifestyle.

“Many people would say, ‘That’s the risk of travel right now,'” said Crooks.

“We do have to acknowledge that things may change, but when we’re not signalling to people what those changes may be like, then that is a missed opportunity to really tailor the messaging, typically for this group of tens if not hundreds of thousands.”

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Read more: From insurance to hotel quarantine, new travel rules leave snowbirds in a conundrum

As a result of the new measures being imposed, some are choosing to extend their stay. However, Kotak says this could easily turn into a “bureaucratic nightmare” for snowbirds, as they may be required to file an income tax return if they stay longer than 182 days.

He’s also reminding those who choose this option to remember to extend their health-care insurance, as there are some companies that are not providing COVID-19 insurance.

“It’s a race against time to contain the spread of these variants and get everybody vaccinated so that we (can) return to normal,” he said.

“In light of those variants, I don’t think the travel rules will be changing any time soon.”