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Federal hotel quarantine rules being ignored by some

Last Updated Feb 22, 2021 at 3:59 pm PDT

Summary

Toronto woman refused to comply with new rules, walked out of airport to quarantine at home

Starting Monday, all international passengers arriving at major Canadian airports have to complete a mandatory three-day hotel quarantine once they land, along with a suite of measures meant to prevent contagious COVID-19 variants from entering the country.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said the tighter border controls are meant to keep everyone safe, not punish travellers. But for some these extra measures may be seen as such.

One Toronto woman refused to comply with the new rules, citing financial concerns. She walked out of the airport to quarantine at her home, alone, as caught on camera by CityNews.

“I’m being forced to go to this hotel,” said a visibly frustrated Priya Harrynadan. “I have no money, so how am I going to go to a hotel right now? This is really stressful because I feel like they’re holding me against my will, they’re questioning me. I have no choice… she told me I have no choice, I have to go to the hotel.”

When Trudeau announced the new measures earlier this month, he estimated costs could run up to $2,000 per person. However rates at the Alt Hotel Toronto Airport and the Sheraton Gateway Hotel at Toronto Pearson International Airport, two of the hotels currently participating in the government quarantine program, start at $339 and $319 per person respectively, hotel employees say — which still adds up to around $1,000 for three days.

RELATED: Stricter public health measures now in effect at Canadian borders, airports

Previously, the Quarantine Act stated that all travellers had to complete a mandatory 14-day quarantine at home. It is unclear how many travellers haven’t been complying with that order.

Cara Zwibel, a lawyer for the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, says she has been asking the federal government for that data, but they haven’t made it public.

She believes that could mean the new hotel quarantine rules are a violation of the Charter of Rights in terms of leaving and entering the country.

“It’s going to be difficult for the government to forcibly take people to go to hotels if they don’t want to go,” she said. “We really don’t know if there’s good evidence that says … before this rule was in place there were a lot of people who were not following those rules, who were not isolating at home. To me that would be the only justification for this.”

RELATED: Canadians still looking for travel workarounds despite new measures

In addition, there are some other bumps in the road — along with getting tested upon arrival, a pre-confirmed hotel booking must be presented once you land at the airport. But pre-booking a hotel has been anything but easy.

Cindy Rajacic’s 70-year-old mother flew to Serbia to be with her dying brother. She’s due to arrive in Canada on Tuesday, but it took Cindy almost 24-hours to book her a hotel room. She says the process needs to be simplified.

“Please put things in place where we can reach someone. We want to abide by all the rules, but give us other options,” she said.

With files from News Staff