The results of Canada’s hotel quarantine mandate reveal that only 1% of international travelers returning to Canada tested positive for COVID-19.
Data released by the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) shows insight on the spread of COVID-19 following the obligatory hotel quarantine that took effect on February 22.
From the start date to March 4, 21,939 travelers were tested upon arrival into Canada, out of which 267 tested positive, reflecting a 1.2% active case ratio.
PHAC further discloses the exposure history of COVID-19 cases in Canada.
The data confirms that 1% of reported COVID-19 cases resulted from travel outside of Canada, 98.4% from domestic acquisition, and the remaining 0.6% from unknown sources.
The ratio is even lower in Ontario – with only 0.6% of cases linking back to international travel – while the province operates Pearson International, notably the country’s busiest airport.
On January 29, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced arguably the toughest entry restrictions in the world, stemming from the risk of highly transmissive variants emerging overseas.
The updated measures saw the shutdown of inbound international flights to all but four major airports, new testing requirements, the suspension of various routes, and a compulsory 3-day hotel quarantine.
As of March 6, 11,440 hotel rooms were reserved through the Global Business Travel number. Health Canada’s website said travelers are not authorized to quarantine at home in order to minimize the potential exposure of COVID-19 to others.
Subsequently, the unprecedented regulations alarmed Canadians due to ramifications – including but not limited to – the $2000 added expense of hotel-quarantine upon return to Canada. In light of the fact that only 1% of virus transmission is linked to international travel, the stringent measures have raised questions from Canadians.
Gov’t Officials Can’t Provide Data Leading to Hotel Quarantine Order
During the committee meeting at the House of Commons on February 19, Public Health Agency officials were unable to provide reasoning or logic behind the hotel quarantine mandate in curbing the spread of COVID-19.
Conservative MP Michelle Rempel Garner asked Public Health officials how they arrived at the new mandate and how the process is more effective than onsite rapid-testing, as seen piloted in certain provinces.
“What data was used to determine that hotel quarantines are a better option for stopping the spread of variants than the Calgary border pilot program, which employs rapid, on-arrival testing,” asked Rempel Garner.
“Anyone?” she continued, as no response was provided by the six PHAC officials in attendance, “Is there anyone at PHAC that provided that advice?”
Backlash from Constitutional Experts
The federal government has received public backlash and threats of litigation from legal-advocacy groups. The Canadian Constitution Foundation (CCF) launched a legal challenge of the federal government quarantine requirement on Monday.
“The quarantine hotel policy is an unjustified limit on the rights of Canadians’ Charter protected right to enter Canada. The $2,000 cost per traveler is exploitive and punitive,” said CCF Litigation Director, Christine Van Geyn.
The group is accompanied in legal action by five nationals who have been directly impacted by the mandate while traveling to see ill family members.
The CCF says the federal requirement is a violation of sections 6, 7, 9, and 12 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and has asked the Ontario Superior Court of Justice to stop the quarantine policy immediately.
The government has not yet responded to the court action.
Meanwhile, PM Trudeau has previously said that the measures are intended to increase safety, not punish people.
Failure to comply with the Quarantine Act could result in fines of up to $3,000 per day. Additionally, violation of the order is an offense and could lead to a maximum of six months in prison and/or $750,000 in fines.
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