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COVID-19: What you can and can’t do for March break in Alberta

Click to play video: 'Hinshaw ‘strongly recommends against interprovincial travel for spring break’ as COVID-19 pandemic continues' Hinshaw ‘strongly recommends against interprovincial travel for spring break’ as COVID-19 pandemic continues
WATCH: Dr. Deena Hinshaw recommends Albertans stay within the province as the COVID-19 pandemic continues. If travelling within the province, she recommends people stay within their cohorts. – Mar 17, 2021

This year, March break in Alberta takes place March 27 to April 5. Like last year, the COVID-19 pandemic will mean it will look different than usual.

While the provinces and Northwest Territories have different rules for people coming in from other provinces, the federal government has implemented mandatory quarantine for anyone arriving in Canada from outside the country.

So, what options to Albertans have this March break? Can you travel at all? Where? And how?

International travel

Dreaming of a sunny vacation? A trip to Mexico might be tempting, but non-essential travel is not recommended.

If you do travel, you’ll have to be tested and quarantine when you return to Canada.

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

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In February, 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.

“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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Anyone returning to Canada is required to complete a mandatory quarantine at a specified hotel. Travellers will be required to take a COVID-19 before leaving the airport and will have another test on Day 10 of mandatory quarantine.

Read more: Airlines suspend flights to sun destinations until April 30 amid growing variant concerns

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In late January, Canada’s major airlines agreed to suspend service to all Caribbean destinations and Mexico until April 30.

All international passenger flights must land at only four airports in Vancouver, Toronto, Calgary and Montreal.

Most flights now require a negative COVID-19 (non-antigen) test and airlines can refuse boarding to travellers who are unable to provide a valid molecular test result.

For international travel into Canada, you must take a test within 72 hours of the scheduled departure time of your flight, have proof of your test results for the 14-day period that starts the day to enter Canada.

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New airport quarantine rules now the law in Canada – Feb 22, 2021

Can I travel within Alberta?

Yes, but it’s recommended you travel alone or with your immediate household only. People who live alone can have up to two close contacts.

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But, Alberta’s current public health restrictions mean you can’t stay at someone else’s house (as indoor social gatherings of any size are prohibited).

So, your household could plan a trip to the mountains, stay at a hotel, cabin or vacation rental property.

Outdoor social gatherings are allowed if limited to 10 people and all attendees follow all public health measures, like physical distancing.

“Internal to the province, if people are considering travelling, I would recommend that travel be just with their household cohort or an individual with their two close contacts,” Hinshaw said March 17. “They should not be staying at another individual’s home. That continues to be against the rules and it’s an activity we see causing a very high risk of spread.

“I would recommend staying relatively close to home, doing something with your household or perhaps an outdoor social gathering where that distancing can be maintained.

“We are at a very important time right now where we are seeing variant cases spread. We haven’t yet reached our vaccination coverage that we need to prevent severe outcomes.

“So for the next couple of months, including spring break, we need to just hold on and protect our communities with our choices,” Hinshaw said.

Ski trip in Alberta

Ski hills can continue to operate as long as they follow all applicable public health orders and guidance, including mandatory face coverings in all indoor locations. Ski hills may have set up additional requirements for masks, including some outdoor locations like during lessons, on chair lifts or in lift lines.

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Gondolas and chairlifts can continue to operate following specific rules, while chalets and indoor gear shops, ticket booths and equipment rental sites can stay open at 15 per cent capacity.

Where possible, ski hills should offer online or outdoor ticket sales and rentals to limit the number of people inside and in line.

Click to play video: 'Plenty of winter activities to enjoy in Banff and Lake Louise' Plenty of winter activities to enjoy in Banff and Lake Louise
Plenty of winter activities to enjoy in Banff and Lake Louise – Jan 22, 2020

Other outdoor activities in Alberta

Many Alberta cities have embraced the great outdoors this winter, bolstering outdoor attractions like ice rinks.

You could also explore a provincial or national park or consider a camping trip.

Read more: Alberta campsite bookings up 100% over 2020 on opening day

Any outdoor recreation that involves group transportation vehicles — like glacier walks, gondola rides, sleigh or wagon rides — can continue so long as everyone wears masks and two metres of distance is kept between people of different households.

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Outdoor festivals and events — like concerts, exhibitions, sporting events or competitions, fireworks displays, parades — are not permitted at this time unless they are in a 100 per cent drive-in format and all attendees remain in their own vehicles.

Staycation

While municipal, provincial and federal officials are urging Canadians to avoid non-essential travel and stay close to home, that doesn’t mean you can’t find ways to have fun over March break.

Consider a local hotel stay in your own city and support some local restaurants and businesses while you’re at it.

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Dine in an igloo at Riverside Bistro – Nov 15, 2020

Some restaurants are even opening their patios early — some even adding fire pits or heaters to make dining in the fresh air more comfortable.

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Alberta is currently under Step 2 of its Path Forward, which means things like movie theatres, indoor social gatherings, youth sports, museums and zoos are still off limits.

Can kids go to day camp?

Not quite yet.

“Under our current public health measures, day camps are not yet permitted to take place,” Dr. Deena Hinshaw said March 16. “I understand the desire for these camps and I know many people would like to have them happen during spring break or the Easter long weekend.

“But these sorts of activities create risk of mixing groups and it is extremely difficult to limit the risk of exposure,” she said.

“That is why these camps will not be allowed until Step 4 of the Path Forward.”

The benchmark for Step 4 includes Alberta hospitalizations due to COVID-19 under 150.

“I know this may be inconvenient but we have seen one case lead to many and we do not want it to happen in these settings.”

Click to play video: 'Hinshaw clarifies Alberta day camps will not be open for spring break amid COVID-19 restrictions' Hinshaw clarifies Alberta day camps will not be open for spring break amid COVID-19 restrictions
Hinshaw clarifies Alberta day camps will not be open for spring break amid COVID-19 restrictions – Mar 16, 2021

Can I travel to B.C.?

“I strongly recommend against interprovincial travel for spring break,” Hinshaw said March 17. “It’s clear that in many other provinces, spread of COVID-19, and variant cases in particular, are escalating.

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“Travelling at this time, outside of the province, risks further escalating that kind of spread, particularly as we in Alberta are seeing spread of variant cases.”

According to the government of B.C., “all non-essential travel should be avoided” at this time. “This includes travel into and out of B.C. and between regions of the province.”

The province says “do not travel for a vacation, do not travel to visit friends or family outside your household or core bubble.”

People travelling to B.C. from another province or territory within Canada should only come for essential reasons, the province says, for work or a medical appointment, for instance.

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Can I travel to Saskatchewan?

The government of Saskatchewan continues to recommend against all non-essential travel.

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If you decide to travel inter-provincially, Saskatchewan recommends you get tested as soon as you return to Saskatchewan and plan for a follow up COVID-19 test seven days later.

Currently, quarantining for 14 days after an out-of-province trip is not mandatory, however, “people who enter or re-enter Saskatchewan should self-monitor for 14 days and self-isolate at the first sign of even mild symptoms.”

Residents of other provinces coming to Saskatchewan (for example, to visit family) should observe all public health measures, including physical distancing and restrictions on the maximum number of people allowed to gather.

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Can I travel to Manitoba?

The province’s public health order requires anyone returning or coming to Manitoba from all jurisdictions to complete 14 days of self-isolation.

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“Individuals who travelled internationally or inter-provincially must go into mandatory quarantine for 14 days from the date of arrival to Manitoba,” the provincial government said.

All travellers are strongly advised get two COVID-19 tests — one on the day of arrival, and another on day 10 after arriving in Manitoba — regardless of if they are displaying symptoms, and whether they are visiting Manitoba or are returning from out of the country.

“Travellers must observe the full 14-day self-isolation period regardless of symptoms and test results.”

Can I travel to Ontario?

Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health strongly advises that individuals and families:

  • only travel out of the province if it is essential
  • self-isolate for 14 days when arriving in or returning to Ontario

Can I travel to Quebec?

The province says “non-essential travel should be avoided” but there are no preventive isolation measures for people arriving from other Canadian provinces.

In fact, travel between regions and cities within Quebec is only allowed if someone is required by a court judgement, is travelling for humanitarian reasons, travelling to receive health care, is authorized by a public health director, lives in the region, transporting goods necessary for priority services, or visiting a family member in an end-of-life situation.

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Can I travel to Yukon?

Anyone may enter Yukon but everyone must self-isolate for 14 days upon arrival in the territory. This is the law in Yukon.

There are exceptions. You do not need to self-isolate if you’re a resident of the Yukon-B.C. border areas of Atlin Lower Post, Fire Side, Jade City, Fraser and Pleasant Camp and you haven’t travelled outside of the B.C. border areas or Yukon in the last 14 days.

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Can I travel to New Brunswick?

Not unless your trip is considered to be an exception to the restrictions. If that’s the case, you must apply through the Travel Registration program. Still, you must isolate for five days and be tested for COVID-19 on Day 5.

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For other reasons, travel into New Brunswick is further restricted. In fact, it’s only allowed for work, medical reasons, child custody or compassionate reasons if approved by Public Health.

Even if you’re a Canadian citizen who owns property in New Brunswick or have family there, you’re not allowed to enter the province. Even if you’re a New Brunswicker who travels outside the province, once you return, you must self-isolate for 14 days.

Can I travel to PEI?

Provincial authorities stress travel in and out of PEI is not recommended at this time.

Prince Edward Island has temporarily suspended its participation in the Atlantic Travel Bubble to curb the spread of COVID-19.

PEI residents do not need pre-approval to return to PEI, but will need to self-isolate and identify a self-isolation location and support person.
Non-residents must apply in advance to travel to PEI and should not make travel plans before receiving pre-travel approval. Proof of approval is required at a PEI border.

Can I travel to Nova Scotia?

Health officials say all non-essential travel should be avoided.

Everyone who travels from outside Nova Scotia or Prince Edward Island into Nova Scotia (including post-secondary students and if you’re travelling through Nova Scotia to another destination) must self-isolate for 14 days when you arrive in Nova Scotia, or for the duration of your stay if it’s less than 14 days.

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If you’ve already self-isolated in Prince Edward Island, you can enter Nova Scotia without self-isolating again.

Every adult (18 or older) and post-secondary student travelling into Nova Scotia from outside Nova Scotia or Prince Edward Island needs to complete a Nova Scotia Safe Check-in Form (self-declaration) before travelling to the province, unless you’re exempt from self-isolation.

Can I travel to Newfoundland?

You must submit a travel form within 30 days of your expected travel date and, unless you’re exempt, anyone arriving in Newfoundland and Labrador must isolate for 14 days.

Can I travel to the Northwest Territories?

No one is allowed to travel to or within the Northwest Territories unless they have an exemption under the public health order.

The territory has put in place laws that require everyone to complete a self-isolation plan, and with few exceptions, to mandatorily self-isolate for 14 days in an approved location.

Can I travel to Nunavut?

Travellers who wish to enter Nunavut, must write to cphotravelrequests@gov.nu.ca and complete and sign the Common Area Traveller’s Declaration form within two to seven business days before their scheduled flight. Anyone travelling by air must have a letter of authorization from the Chief Public Health Officer in order to board the plane.

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Travellers must complete the Isolation Reservation Request form and submit it to nuisolationreservations@nunavutcare.ca.

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