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Feds approve travel exemption for Olympic athletes amid quarantine bubble plan

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The federal government has approved a travel exemption for Canada’s Olympic hopefuls that will allow them to train on home soil without undergoing a 14-day COVID-19 quarantine after returning to the country.

Read more: Delta COVID-19 variant: A look at the risks, symptoms and impact on vaccines

Minister of Immigration Marco Mendicino said in a statement Friday that the government issued the exemption after reviewing a plan to create modified quarantine training bubbles for the athletes put forward by the Canadian Olympic and Paralympic Committees and Own the Podium.

“The plan contains significant measures to ensure the safety of athletes, coaching staff and the public,” he said.

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Athletes and staff will still need to stay at a government-authorized hotel when they return to Canada, but once they receive a negative result, they’ll be able to join one of four modified quarantine bubbles in Toronto, Montreal, Calgary or Victoria.

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In the bubble, they’ll be restricted to their accommodation and training facilities, and won’t be able to interact with the public.

Each bubble will have a “compliance officer” and athletes and staff will be tested for COVID-19 “at regular intervals” about every second day.

Anyone who strays from the conditions set out for the bubbles will be removed from training, will have to complete a standard 14-day quarantine, and could face fines or prosecution.

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“We continue to monitor the COVID-19 situation around the world and base our decisions on science, the best data available and the advice of public health officials at the local, provincial and federal levels,” Mendicino said.

Protocols for the bubbles were developed with “a meticulous focus on health and safety,” David Shoemaker, CEO and secretary general of the Canadian Olympic Committee, said in a statement.

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“With a little more than a month to go until the Tokyo Olympic Games, athletes are in their final stages of training,” he said. “The opportunity to access a safe training bubble that protects the athletes and their communities is an incredibly important part of their preparation.”

Read more: Banning spectators from Tokyo Olympics ‘least risky’ option, experts warn

The Tokyo Olympics start on July 23.

Race walker Evan Dunfee said the new measures might come too late for some Canadian athletes.

“Great. But this is likely too late to allow our NCAA Track & Field athletes the opportunity to compete at Nationals,” Dunfee wrote on Twitter. “There is at least one athlete whose opportunity to make the Olympic team has been destroyed by not being allowed to compete, and that sucks.”

The Canadian track and field championships start next Thursday.

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Earlier this month, the federal government issued a travel exemption for the NHL playoffs that allows teams to cross the border without a 14-day quarantine through the final two rounds of the Stanley Cup playoffs.

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Players and staff are tested pre- and post-departure when crossing the border, and are confined to their hotels and the arena on the road, but those with Canadian teams can stay at home while playing in Canada.

The Montreal Canadiens _ the only Canadian team remaining in the playoffs _ was set to host the Vegas Golden Knights in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup semifinal Friday, marking the first time a U.S.-based team played in Canada since March 2020.

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