As we have written about the past few weeks, the effects of the pandemic on Canada’s airlines are starting to show, as there have been widespread cancellations of services and layoffs in response to the drastically reduced number of travellers since March of 2020. It was just announced that WestJet is temporarily suspending service to four Canadian airports from March 19 to June 24 due to a lack of travellers. The affected airports are St John’s, London, Lloydminster, and Medicine Hat. For Canadians who need to travel, the options are becoming increasingly limited. Be sure to stay aware of the availability of airline service in your area if you are planning to travel in the future, as conditions are constantly changing at this time.
With the introduction of policies that require mandatory COVID-19 testing for both air and land travellers, Canadians have been increasingly in need of timely COVID-19 testing, and some have started to seek out private COVID-19 testing options when public ones have been unavailable. The price for private COVID-19 tests is highly variable as they can range from $160-1200 depending on where you are located, and which company administers the test. There is concern amongst the healthcare community about the regulation of private tests because of the rapid growth of the testing industry, and a possible difference in standards between the companies.
With at least 15 private companies in addition to the government providing COVID-19 testing services, there is sure to be some variation across the industry. Some companies are even starting to offer in-home testing, for an increased fee. A problem that some users of these private companies have been facing is false results, both positive and negative. A false negative means that a person travelling on a plane based on the test’s assurances can unknowingly put many individuals in jeopardy. A false positive means that a traveller will be prohibited from boarding a plane or crossing a border without real cause. With the new mandatory testing regulations at the border, if you are planning to travel it is worth thinking about where you are obtaining your COVID-19 test in order to ensure that the result is reliable.
At the beginning of the winter, many would-be travellers to warmer climates down south found ways around the border regulation in order to reach their yearly vacation spots in the United States. Now, with the new hotel regulations for returning Canadians, travellers are again looking for ways to make their trip less burdensome. The new regulation by the federal government stipulates that travellers returning to Canada by air may have to spend up to three days at a designated hotel as part of the 14-day quarantine requirement. This hotel stay could be pricey, as the government has warned it could upwards of $2,000 dollars per person.
Naturally, travellers want to avoid this potentially high bill, so again they are looking for loopholes. What some travellers are planning on doing is flying to airports just south of the border, being driven to the border, and then walking over the border in order to avoid the mandatory hotel stay. After crossing the border, some will have had a car left for them close by or will have family pick them up to make their way home to quarantine there.
It is unlikely that the same hotel stay requirement will be imposed at land borders. The reason why the policy is feasible for air arrivals is that all international flights are going into four major airports, which enables the government to ensure that arriving passengers check into nearby quarantine hotels. The land border contains 117 different points of entry, so a hotel rule would be much harder for the government to enforce. Still, the government cautions against non-essential travel and regulations can change at any point, as we have seen since last March.
Make sure you stay updated on regional restrictions and regulations before you make travel arrangements. If you are looking to travel, make sure you qualify as essential or prepare an exemption request. Depending on where you are going, you may also need a 14-day quarantine plan. If you have questions about where you can travel, please do not hesitate to contact us.
The immigration lawyers at Garson Immigration Law are continuing to monitor the immigration fallout in relation to COVID-19 on both sides of the border and will provide updates as the situation develops. If you have any questions about your potential classification as essential or about how you should comply with the changing regulations, do not hesitate to reach out to us online or by calling us at 416-321-2860.