The government’s aim to reduce travel by imposing a mandatory hotel quarantine has gone as planned; the number of inbound travelers to Canada has dropped nearly 55% since the policy was introduced last month.
Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) data reveals that between February 22 and March 14, a total of 65,253 travelers arrived in Canada by air – a slump of 54.7% since the obligatory hotel quarantine took effect.
Meanwhile, land travel climbed 8.9% in the same time frame, despite current border restrictions, equaling 546,083 travelers by land. Notably, the hotel quarantine is not imposed upon travelers entering through the land border.
In a bid to curb the spread of COVID-19, Canada shut its air and land borders to nonessential travel during the onset of the pandemic in March 2020.
Given the land border is currently limited to essential travel, the majority of arrivals by land are essential workers exempt from quarantine. There is a 72-hour testing requirement (molecular test), with some exclusions such as commercial trucks.
Select groups of Americans are able to enter on compassionate or reunification grounds, as well as those with long-term work or education visas while adhering to entry requirements, namely testing and quarantine.
Concern Regarding Effectiveness of Hotel Quarantine
The hotel quarantine mandate is under scrutiny for many reasons.
- The 3-day hotel stay costs upwards of $1500 at the traveler’s expense. The government had stated that the expense incorporates additional services such as transportation, security, and infection control. However, there have been reports suggesting that quarantining at a hotel is not any more effective than quarantining at home.
- The mandate only applies to travelers arriving by air, while the majority of passage takes place through the dozens of land borders. Accordingly, PM Trudeau has said the mandate would not apply to land borders due to challenging logistics. However, this poses the concern that only 25% of travelers arriving internationally are subject to such a requirement.
- Data released by the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) shows that only 1% of travelers arriving into Canada by air travel tested positive for COVID-19. Meanwhile, 98% of cases documented by PHAC resulted from domestic contagion. Evidently, the policy is specifically targeting a group of Canadians that presumably pose one of the lowest risks in terms of transmission.
- The consequences of ignoring the mandate are unclear, as reports of travelers openly walking out of the airport refusing the hotel-stay surfaced earlier this month.
Injunction Against Hotel Quarantine Mandate Denied
Constitutional rights advocate group, the Canadian Constitution Foundation, launched a legal challenge of the federal government quarantine requirement earlier this month, which was dismissed by the Supreme Court on March 22. The group had claimed that the federal policy violates sections 6, 7, 9, and 12 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Subsequently, the ruling issued by Justice Frederick Myers stated that the federal mandate “is deeply rooted in science and comprehensive public policy development.” Myers added that the public interest in curbing the spread of COVID-19 and new variants of the virus outweighs the arguments in favor of an injunction that would tentatively suspend the order, which is set to expire on the 21st of April.
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