quarantine hotel

People are struggling to book quarantine hotels in Toronto and elsewhere in Canada

The federal government's new regulations for people coming into Canada came into effect on Monday, including a buzzed-about directive requiring international passengers to spend a few nights in a  quarantine hotel at their own expense while they await the results of a mandatory COVID-19 test.

It was revealed 10 days ago that the new rule would be implemented starting on Feb. 22, and further details including a list of approved hotels were just released last week, giving travellers little time to make their booking, which Ottawa has said they must take care of themselves. 

And apparently, it's been an absolute nightmare to do so.

People across social media have been sharing horror stories of spending eons trying to get in touch with GB Travel Canada Inc., which is the company managing all bookings for the 18 hotels designated for quarantine purposes.

Some have even reported having to cancel their flight home for fear of arriving and not having made the proper arrangements in time.

The government of Canada website on the topic does say at the time of publication that "the phone line is receiving a high volume of calls at the moment" and thanks callers for their patience, but many are citing spending more than just a few hours trying to get through.

"I spent 11 hours on 3 cell phones trying to get through to book a room today," Sarah Serata, who is moving from Portland, Oregon to Toronto for work, told blogTO on Sunday. "How on earth did the government have only this many hotels for the whole country?"

"What happens next week when people are coming in and they book a room and all the rooms are booked up? Will they turn people away and put them on a plane out of the country? This is the most epic fail of the pandemic to date."

Serata says that she was finally able to secure a room, and that the woman that eventually helped her was thanfully very kind and able to complete the booking in all of 20 minutes.

For her, the cost of the stay for one adult and two teenagers will amount to $525 per night out-of-pocket, including a food credit of $125, but she hasn't yet been given the details on how the meal system will work.

She also added that in her frantic attempts to book, she sought guidance in a number of online forums, in which others were likewise "freaking out, stuck in places like India, trying to get to school and they can't get a room."

"It's insane how many people are trying to get through and giving up after nine hours," she says.

Her trip was also complicated by the fact that she unknowingly had taken the wrong type of COVID-19 test — Ottawa requires proof of a negative PCR test within 72 hours before a flight into Canada — which meant her getting sidelined in Chicago for a night, which is why she had to make her hotel booking so last-minute.

She says she and her kids "had intended to arrive the day before, which would have allowed us to skip the three-day quarantine."

Quarantine accomodation sites are located only near the four airports in Canada that international travel has now been limited to since the beginning of the month: Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto, and Montreal.

In Toronto, they are the Alt Hotel Pearson AirportFairfield Inn and Suites Toronto AirportFour Points by Sheraton Toronto AirportHoliday Inn Toronto International Airport, Sheraton Gateway Hotel in Toronto International Airport and Sheraton Toronto Airport Hotel and Conference Centre.

If travellers' test results come back negative, they are able to go home for the remainder of the 14-day mandatory isolation period. But, if they are found to be positive for the virus, they will be forced to hunker down in a designated government facility to prevent further spread.

Understandably, many of those who have been heeding the government's orders to stay at home and avoid all non-essential travel are finding it a bit hard to sympathize with incoming passengers having a hard time making arrangements to return and quarantine, particularly those who chose to embark on non-essential vacations abroad.

Since the time of publication, an additional 27 hotels have been added to Ottawa's approved list, including another nine in Toronto.

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