About a week after Tope Akindele returned home to Edmonton from Nigeria, the Canadian government introduced a laundry list of new COVID-19 travel restrictions.
“I don’t think it was thought through,” Akindele said.
He arrived back in Canada on November 22 and eight days later, Ottawa announced a strict set of rules for travellers from 10 African countries where the Omicron variant was first identified.
Foreign nationals who have been in these countries in the last 14 days are not allowed into Canada and any Canadians travelling home from these countries will have to be tested at the airport and quarantine while awaiting their results.
“Some people were randomly selected to be tested. When we’re coming in — I wasn’t. We were not randomly selected,” Akindele explained.
Akindele was bringing his mother to Canada. When the pair arrived in Calgary before connecting to Edmonton they were told quarantining wasn’t required.
“Upon return, I resumed work. I’ve been working from home — no need to go anywhere,” he said.
But days later he said Health Canada called telling him he needs to quarantine.
“I said ‘no,’ at the time I returned I wasn’t required to quarantine, but all the same, I’ve been home,” he explained.
Health Canada also instructed him to take a COVID test, which needs to be booked through 811.
Akindele says he hasn’t been able to get through. He also doesn’t drive.
Only adding to the stress, he says a security guard showed up at his door to make sure he’s at home and that he had booked a test.
“The guy banged on the door so aggressively. I was like, who does that? Who is this?” Akindele said.
“In my head, I was like, why send (security) when you could have sent someone to come take a swab? Same trip.”
The new rules, particularly around testing, have created a lot of confusion and frustration.
Travel agent Lesley Paull said she’s fielding many questions, but her clients aren’t cancelling their trips.
“A lot of people are tired. They want to go, they’re double vaccinated or triple vaccinated and they’re going,” Paull said.
“It’s more, what is this variant going to do in the future? Is it going to be something or not?”
Paull said ultimately it’s just a matter of getting another PCR test on arrival.
“You’re not paying for that it’s just the inconvenience of getting another test and waiting for the results,” she said.
“It’s still just really mass confusion that’s the biggest problem with it all I think.”
As for Akindele, he believes at this point in the pandemic the system needs to be better.
“It’s kind of stressful if you travel during this period of COVID and that’s why I understand when they say don’t travel if it’s not essential,” he said.
Health Canada said it will take a few days before all targeted travellers will be tested, but it’s ramping up capacity quickly and testing more and more travellers every day.