hotel quarantine

Health experts are calling for end to Canada's hotel quarantine program

The mandatory hotel quarantine that the Canadian government announced at the beginning of 2021 and imposed in late February has been somewhat of a controversial mess, complete with an impossible booking process, vastly inflated prices, COVID-19 outbreaks, reports of low security leading to sexual assaults, and more.

And now, some health experts — joining the citizens and lawyers who have challenged the program — are calling for its end.

The federal COVID-19 Testing and Screening Expert Advisory Panel handed a report to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his team on Thursday that suggested the quarantine hotels be nixed due to the high costs of operating them, the arbitrary nature of the three-day stay length, and obvious loopholes in the system, among other things.

"While likely improving quarantine compliance in Canada for the short term, there are several issues related to mandatory government-authorized accommodation worthy of consideration," the panel writes.

It then goes on to outline five key justifications for ending the program, including the three mentioned above, as well as the "cost, time commitment and a burden to book" faced by travellers, and the fact that many are simply opting to flout the rule and receive the associated fine.

Instead, they suggest that incoming air travellers have their own quarantine plan in place, and show border officials that they can execute it:

"Given the current Canadian context, the Panel recommends a strong focus on adherence to quarantine... research indicates that emphasizing quarantine as a social norm increases the perceived benefits of quarantine as well as compliance with quarantine."

Despite this advice, Trudeau has stated that though there will be a point at which we can do away with the government facilities, we are not yet at it. He recently extended the mandate for all people arriving in the country by air to June 21.

Many have been notoriously bypassing the hotel stay — which was implemented extremely late in the game, more than a year after the first case of COVID-19 was declared in Canada — by flying to a U.S. airport and driving over the border, which for some reason exempts them from the measure.

Other interesting takeaways from the advisory panel's report include the recommendation that fully vaccinated travellers get to bypass the pre-departure COVID-19 test, test required seven days after landing and the quarantine requirements altogether.

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