Alberta’s COVID-19 hotel isolation program has $10M price tag, so far

A file photo of a hotel room. Global News file photo

The provincial government has spent more than $10 million on its hotel isolation program for Albertans who have tested positive for COVID-19 or have been a close contact of a positive case, according to information provided to Global News by Alberta Municipal Affairs.

The program, which is free of charge, was created during the pandemic so Albertans could isolate safely; household spread had been identified by the province as a key concern in the battle against the virus.

The cost has grown dramatically since September 2020, when Alberta Health said approximately $150,000 had been spent on the service; it was highlighted by the province during the second wave of the pandemic when case counts grew, then stayed, stubbornly high.

Since the program launched in May 2020, more than 5,660 Albertans have stayed in more than 5,100 self-isolation hotel rooms, said Charlotte Taillon, press secretary for the Municipal Affairs minister.

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READ MORE: COVID-19: Alberta expands hotel self-isolation financial incentive to all residents

Approximately 36 per cent of the rooms used were in Calgary, 45 per cent were in Edmonton while 19 per cent were spread across the rest of the province.

Taillon said a number of northern Albertan residents travelled to Edmonton to access hotel rooms since there was limited capacity in more remote areas, thereby pushing the Edmonton figure higher.

The program peaked in April with 2,040 rooms during that month; currently 43 rooms are in use, Taillon said.

The government has paid $7.35 million to hotels for accommodations, food and other costs and has spent $340,000 on transportation of guests to and from the isolation hotel, if they did not have their own vehicle, as well as to and from COVID testing clinics. The premier said Dec. 15, 2020 that the daily cost of the room and food for each person is about $160.

READ MORE: Alberta expanding free self-isolation hotel program, sending COVID-19 care teams to hard-hit communities

Since Dec. 15, 2020, the provincial government has been offering a one-time $625 payment to those who completed their isolation in the hotel program.

So far, $2.5 million has been paid out to more than 4,000 hotel guests, according to Taillon.

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As of right now, there is no end date in sight for the initiative.

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