Pay up!


Pay up!

• Canada's $2,000 quarantine fee takes effect today • J'cans urged to park travel plans

Observer writer

Monday, February 22, 2021

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ALBERTA, Canada — People travelling from Jamaica to Canada by air will be hit with a CAD$2,000 quarantine fee beginning today as the Justin Trudeau Government rolls out even stricter measures to limit cross-border movement amidst the novel coronavirus pandemic, which continues to hold the North American country firmly in its grip.

The fee is to offset the cost of mandatory quarantine at a government-approved hotel for three days, as affected travellers await the results of a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) molecular test that will be administered to them upon entry. Travellers have to book and prepay for their hotel stay before boarding their flights to Canada. Preboarding requirements also include proof of a negative PCR test result taken within 72 hours of their entry into Canada, and the uploading of travel information via the ArriveCAN mobile app. The latter measures came into force earlier this month.

Along with the hotel stay and private molecular test, the fee covers transportation from the airport to the designated hotels, meals, access to Internet and television services, security, among other control measures. Travellers who return negative results will be allowed to leave the hotel to finish their 14-day quarantine at home, providing they have an approved plan and obligate themselves to strict surveillance, including COVID-19 symptom self-assessment via the ArriveCAN app, and random visits by members of the security forces and health workers.

“Those with positive tests will be immediately required to quarantine in designated government facilities to make sure they're not carrying variants of potential concern,” Prime Minister Trudeau said at the time of the announcement.

This latest restriction is in addition to the suspension of air travel from Canada to Jamaica, other parts of the Caribbean, and Mexico that came into effect on January 31 and will continue until April 30. Travellers, however, can enter via the United States and international flights are only allowed to land at four designated airports — Vancouver (British Columbia), Calgary (Alberta), Toronto (Ontario), and Montreal (Quebec).

Prime Minister Trudeau said the curtailment of air travel is necessary to halt the spread of the SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, which up until Saturday had afflicted more than 843,000 people across the North American country's 10 provinces and three territories. More than 21,000 people have died as a result of complications from the fast-moving virus, while active cases, nationally, registered at approximately 32,000 as at yesterday. Ontario, Quebec, Alberta, and British Columbia are the provinces hardest hit by the virus.

“With the challenges we currently face with COVID-19, both here at home and abroad, we all agree that now is just not the time to be flying. By putting in place these tough measures now, we can look forward to a better time when we can all plan those vacations,” Trudeau said while announcing the measures earlier this month.

Along with the United States and the United Kingdom, Canada is one of Jamaica's largest tourism markets and the travel restrictions have dealt a major blow to tourist arrivals, which increase during winter months as weather-weary Canadian citizens and residents seek a respite from the bitter cold. It has also caused serious pain for people who travel between the two countries to visit relatives and do business.

Meanwhile, a Canadian woman who recently returned from a trip to Jamaica expressed relief that she escaped the hefty fee, but warned Jamaicans with travel plans to park them for now.

Jean Allen, who travelled to Jamaica in December to visit her husband, faced many anxious moments when the restrictions were announced, as she was forced to make a frantic rush to book an appointment for a PCR test at an approved lab, as required for boarding one of the arranged flights for Canadian citizens, permanent residents, and other approved travellers from Jamaica to Canada.

“I just could not get an appointment. It was so stressful as I was scouring the Internet and calling everyone for help,” she told the Jamaica Observer in a telephone interview on Friday — her last day of home quarantine.

After days of searching and calling around, she managed to get a test and travelled to Toronto on February 6, en route to Calgary. She said upon arrival at Pearson International Airport in Toronto she was taken aback by the heavy contingent of security personnel on hand, a number of whom escorted her to Customs.

“They tested me in Toronto, questioned me at Customs, gave me a long list of quarantine rules, and sent me on my way to Calgary. I was relieved that they did not send me to a hotel, as I did not have that type of money. When I arrived in Calgary, I was subjected to another test and was instructed to take a cab home, instead of asking a friend to come pick me up. I had to prove to them that I lived alone,” she told the Observer.

She said while in home quarantine the police and personnel from Alberta Health Services turned up at random times to ensure that she is complying with the isolation rules. She also had to do the COVID-19 symptoms self-assessments and make reports via the ArriveCAN app.

“They just knock on the door whenever they want. I have not left my home at all since I returned,” she said.

Violating the public health order in Alberta can attract a CAD$1,000 fine, and up to CAD$100,000 for a first offence if the case is prosecuted.

With this in mind, Allen's advice to those who want to travel is to stay put for now.

“Stay away until everything is lifted and a lot better. Or be prepared for a stressful experience,” she warned, as she anxiously awaited clearance from the health authorities.

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