Frank Gunn/CP
A lone passenger stands outside the International Arrivals area at Pearson Airport in Toronto on Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2021. As the federal government prepares to slap new restrictions on foreign arrivals, Health Canada data suggest a growing number of infections directly connected to international travel.

Bending the curve: Trudeau’s travel restrictions similar to Australia’s rules

The new normal has been with Canadians for about a year now and there are many Canadians who understand the need for restrictions.

But there are also those who don’t.

The federal Liberal government enacted travel measures last week: passengers returning from abroad will have to quarantine at a hotel for up to three days after taking a PCR test at the airport.

The hotel cost for the traveller is about $2,000.

The move is one of several measures meant to choke off entry of the virus into Canada, but comes after case numbers of more transmissible variants have begun to rise.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau hinted travel restrictions were coming about a week before they were enacted. Through these regulations the federal government’s message to Canadians is simple: don’t travel if it’s not essential.

With these rules, the federal government isn’t banning travel completely, but is making it difficult to do so. Someone who must travel at this time will have to jump through the many hoops.

The Public Health Agency of Canada says foreigners can still apply to enter the country for non-essential reasons that include supporting a critically ill person, attending a funeral or being with a loved one who is dying.

“Since the beginning of this pandemic there have been stories of funerals that haven’t been able to be held, weddings had to (be) put off or done by Zoom, families not being able to get together,” Trudeau said Tuesday.

“But at the same time our responsibility is to make sure we’re keeping Canadians as safe as possible. These new variants out there are of real concern.”

He said “rare exceptions” to new travel restrictions will be made on compassionate grounds.

It seems like yesterday and yet a long time ago that Canada recorded its first-ever novel coronavirus case in January 2020, after a Toronto man had returned from China.

Fast forward to December when Canada reported UK variant cases. They were found in Ontario and B.C., where patients had either travelled or been in contact with others who had travelled.

Since we know our source of the virus is indeed through travel, the federal government has made the right decision by putting measures in place to try and nip the virus in the bud at its source.

The restrictions remind me of what Australia has done to eliminate the spread of the virus. Since March, international travellers in Australia have had to abide by a mandatory two week hotel quarantine.

The move is an inconvenience to many, and understandably so, but it’s a small price to pay for the greater good.

It’s the right plan if we want to save people’s lives, open our small businesses while not adding stress to the health-care system.

People entering Canada have an obligation to comply with testing and quarantine requirements.

But Premier Jason Kenney, Red Deer-South MLA Jason Stephan and Red Deer city councillor Vesna Higham — are asking for transparency in the process.

“Federal agencies … could avoid a lot of anger and confusion if they were more transparent about where people will be staying,” Kenney said earlier this week.

The premier was reacting to complains of returning travellers being detained in isolation while their families are left in the dark about what’s happening. This was the case for a family in Red Deer.

The scenario unfolded for a 20-year-old Red Deer man last weekend. His mother, Rebekah McDonald, posted a video on Facebook and YouTube recounting the upsetting experience at Calgary airport.

There was no reason to withhold information about where this man was being taken or when he would be free to rejoin his family.

Kenney is correct: a little bit of openness in this regard will certainly help everyone and reassure the families of returning travellers.

It’s not every day I agree with so many politicians. But in this instance, I commend both our prime minister and our premier for their efforts to curb the number of cases in our communities.

With files from The Canadian Press

Mamta Lulla is managing editor at the Red Deer Advocate.



mamta.lulla@reddeeradvocate.com

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