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Feds looking to add more hotels to list of approved coronavirus quarantine accommodations

Calgary International Airport on February 18, 2021.
Calgary International Airport on February 18, 2021. Tim Lee/Global News

The federal government is looking to add more hotels to its list of approved coronavirus quarantine accomodations for air travellers returning to Canada.

In a statement emailed to Global News on Sunday, the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) said it is currently accepting more hotels as government-authorized accommodations (GAAs) “to ensure additional rooms are available for travellers.”

Read more: Travellers booking COVID-19 quarantine hotels report long wait times, lack of options

Last month, the federal Liberals implemented a new set of rules for those entering the country, which included a three-day quarantine period at a hotel for those arriving by air.

Currently all of the GAAs are located in the four provinces where airports are accepting international flights — Alberta, Ontario, British Columbia and Quebec.

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Growing frustrations over booking quarantine hotel rooms in Canada – Feb 28, 2021

“It is important that travellers understand that it is their responsibility to ensure they have a confirmed government-authorized hotel booking before they fly to Canada or they may face enforcement action upon arrival, including fines of up to $3,000 for each day of non-compliance,” the statement from the PHAC read.

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“Travellers who pre-booked the required government-authorized accommodation must go directly to the hotel as per their booking.”

The agency said any travellers who could not secure a room at GAAs will be assessed by a quarantine officer and “may be directed to a designated quarantine facility or another a suitable place to quarantine.”

Read more: ‘Reliable scientific evidence’ needed to consider COVID-19 vaccine passports: PHAC

Speaking at a press conference last month, Health Minister Patty Hajdu said the three-day hotel quarantine is being enforced for a “very important purpose.”

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“It allows for the clearing of a PCR test, for a person to be tested for COVID and for Canada to receive the results of that test prior to any onward travel. It also allows for any positive tests to be sequenced, if you will, for any variants,” she said.

“It’s very important right now that we understand what the virus looks like as it changes and as it shifts both here domestically in Canada, but also in an international context so that we can continue to monitor COVID in Canada.”

In the weeks since the new rules were implemented, travellers have reported long wait times and difficulties booking a place to stay ahead of their arrival in Canada.

However, the “average call wait time as of today is two minutes,” American Express Global Business Travel, which is running the phone line for the quarantine hotel bookings, told Global News in an emailed statement Sunday.

“Our trained and specialized travel counsellors are providing around the clock service to facilitate hotel bookings for travellers returning to Canada,” and “will continue to work with the Public Health Agency of Canada to provide necessary support,” it added.

By the numbers

In March 2020, the federal government closed Canada’s border to all non-essential travel in a bid to stem the spread of the virus.

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Travellers in quarantine in Canada report chaos in hotels – Feb 27, 2021

For months, public health officials and Travel Canada have repeatedly urged Canadians not to travel unless necessary.

However, the latest statistics from Canada’s Border Service Agency released on Friday said a total of 10,908,758 travellers were recorded between March 21, 2020, and March 7, 2021.

Read more: Despite more testing, less travel needed to stem COVID-19 spread at land border: expert

Of those, 2,624,574 have arrived by air, with 737,883 on flights from the U.S., and 1,886,691 on international flights.

According to the PHAC, as of March 8, it was aware of 15 tickets that had been issued to travellers arriving in Canada without having booked a GAA, “and subsequently refusing to go to a GAA.”

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