February 22, 2021, Toronto Star – New travel restrictions in effect as international arrivals plunge
The federal government’s new travel restrictions came into effect on Monday as it reported a dramatic fall in air travel since the COVID-19 pandemic began.
Most travellers landing at Canadian airports are now required to self-isolate in a government-approved hotel for three days, and will need to get tested for the virus both when they arrive in the country and when they are ready to exit their 14-day quarantine.
Travellers arriving at land borders will be given self-swab kits, and testing will be provided on site at five, high-volume border crossings. The new rules were imposed in addition to government orders that require negative test results within 72 hours of arrival.
The new restrictions come into effect as international arrivals to Canada are down between 90 and 95 per cent compared to Jan. 2020, according to new data released by Statistics Canada today. Airlines, reeling from the significant drop in revenue, have been negotiating with Ottawa for months on a federal aid package.
“It is critical that the government engage with the industry to develop…a truly robust and effective testing strategy based on science and that is tied to quarantine and border restrictions,” said Mike McNaney, president and CEO of the National Airlines Council of Canada, in a statement on Monday.
“These are necessary preconditions for the eventual safe, phased reopening of aviation.”
The new restrictions resulted in changes in flight schedules on Monday. Robin Smith, a spokesperson for the Greater Toronto Airports Authority, told the Star that 18 flights had been impacted by the new rules as of Monday afternoon.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said the tighter border controls are intended to keep everyone safe, not punish travellers or businesses. In fact, some have criticized the new restrictions for being too lenient on travellers, as hotel rooms were recently reported to cost well-below the $2,000-per-person price tag cited by officials when they announced the new program.
“Our officials are working hard to ensure this quarantine system is in place…and we will continue to communicate with Canadians with regard to instructions on how to comply with those measures,” Trudeau said at a press conference on Friday.
Canadian airlines and their respective labour unions have called on Ottawa to hurry up with an aid package as the companies cut thousands of positions from their workforces.
Wesley Lesosky, president of the Air Canada component of CUPE, the union representing flight attendants at Air Canada and Air Canada Rouge, has blamed the cuts on the stalled negotiations.
“Instead of working with us, the government is working against us, and one year into this pandemic, Canada remains the only country in the G7 without a plan to help the airline sector,” Lesosky said earlier in February.