Ontario calls for mandatory hotel quarantine for travellers at land borders
Ontario is asking the federal government to require all travellers crossing into Canada at land borders to observe the same three-day hotel quarantine that's currently mandatory for air travellers.
Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott and Solicitor General Sylvia Jones penned a letter to Canada's Minister of Public Safety Bill Blair and Minister of Health Patty Hadju this week calling for the measure to help slow the spread of COVID-19 variants in the province.
"While returning, international air travelers are required to quarantine at a federally designated hotel, it has become evident that individuals are able to bypass this requirement," they wrote.
"There are reports of international travelers booking return flights into nearby United States airports, taking a taxi or limousine to a United States-Canada land border crossing, and subsequently walking or driving across the border," continues the letter.
"These reports are deeply troubling and further illustrate the extreme risk that inadequate border measures pose in the face of deadly COVID-19 variants."
Here is a copy of the letter the Ontario government sent to Federal Public Safety Minister @BillBlair and Health Minister @PattyHajdu requesting the Feds implement the mandatory 3 day hotel quarantine at Canada’s land border with the US #cdnpoli pic.twitter.com/dvxtniOdbH— Cormac Mac Sweeney (@cmaconthehill) April 30, 2021
The letter states that this loophole represents "a significant threat" to public health in the province due to the possibility of even more variants of concern entering via land borders, some of which could be vaccine-resistant.
In the past two weeks, according to the letter, 150,000 people (in addition to essential commercial truckers) have crossed Canada's land borders, including dozens who crossed between April 24-26 after arriving from countries where direct flights to Canada are currently banned.
"This is not just an Ontario problem – it is a Canada-wide problem," reads the letter.
A statement from Public Health Ontario says 36 cases of the B1617 variant have been detected - 30 cases detected on arrival testing at land border / airport; and 6 additional cases were found, all linked to international travel. All cases were identified “in the last few days”.— Sarah Sears (@iamSas) April 23, 2021
Canada's current travel restrictions require all those arriving from an international destination by plane to quarantine at a designated hotel facility for three days while waiting for the results of a COVID-19 test.
Those who receive a negative test are then free to complete their 14-day quarantine at home, while those who test positive must transfer to another federal quarantine facility.
But for land borders, travellers are simply required to show a negative COVID-19 test taken in the past 72 hours, present a plan for the 14-day mandatory quarantine and take another test eight days after arriving home.
As a result, the province is specifically requesting the implementation of a mandatory three-day hotel quarantine in federally-designated hotels at the highest traffic crossings, including those in Niagara, Windsor, Sarnia and Brockville.
On Thursday, Ontario Premier Doug Ford also called on the prime minister to to do more to restrict international flights arriving from COVID-19 hot spots and to introduce a new rule requiring domestic air travellers to show proof of a negative test before taking an interprovincial flight.
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