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For Canadians who insisted they needed a pandemic trip to sunny South Florida, the trip back home just got more expensive.
Determined to stop its citizens from traveling to foreign countries while COVID-19 runs amok, the Canadian government announced Friday that any citizens returning home from another country would have to stay in government-approved hotels for up to three days while they await the results of mandatory coronavirus tests.
The estimated cost of their stays: More than $1,500, which translates into $2,000 Canadian.
“With the challenges we currently face with COVID-19 both here and abroad, we all agree that now is just not the time to be flying,” Prime Justin Trudeau said at a midday news conference in Ottawa.
Tests at the border
It is unclear how many Canadian “snowbirds” — people who vacation in Florida for extended periods during the winter — are currently in the region. Many stay in second homes that they own in Broward and Palm Beach counties.
But anyone who has driven to Florida also will face a COVID-19 test when they reach the U.S.-Canadian border upon their return, Trudeau said.
“We will also, in the coming weeks, be requiring nonessential travelers to show a negative test before entry at the land border with the U.S., and we are working to stand up additional testing requirements for land travel,” he said.
A spokesman for the Toronto-based Canadian Snowbird Association. a travel support group that claims more than 100,000 members, did not respond to an emailed request for comment.
Canada currently requires air travelers to test negative prior to boarding international flights bound for Canada. Anyone who enters the country must quarantine for two weeks.
The measure is part of the latest package of restrictions unveiled by a government determined to keep its citizens at home until the pandemic is brought under control. According to Johns Hopkins University, Canada has recorded 770,427 coronavirus infections since the pandemic began in March. More than 19,000 people have died.
Now, besides the pre-flight COVID tests travelers must take before boarding their planes, they must stay at government-approved hotels at their own expense for up to three days to await the results of another test.
Those with negative tests can complete a mandatory two-week quarantine period at their homes,
“Those with positive tests will be immediately required to quarantine in designated government facilities to make sure they’re not carrying variants of potential concern.” Trudeau told reporters.
Other steps include a government agreement with the nation’s four major airlines — Air Canada, Air Transat, Sunwing and Westjet — to suspend flights starting Sunday to so-called “sun” destinations in the Caribbean and to Mexico. The suspensions will last through April 30,
Flights to South Florida and other state airports were not included in the mandate.
Canada in December joined several other countries banning flights from the United Kingdom.
“Banning certain flights to and from countries where the variant virus is present, such as UK, South Africa, Portugal, and Brazil, is a good option to stem the flow of virus into the country,” Marty Firestone of the Toronto travel insurance firm Travel Secure, said in an email.
Trudeau said that starting next week, all international passenger flights into Canada must land at airports in Toronto, Montreal, Calgary and Vancouver, in an apparent effort to narrow the entry points into the country for air travelers from overseas.
For months, Canada has been trying to keep its citizens at home and away from places that have sizable coronavrius outbreaks.
Last spring, it closed the border with the U.S. for nonessential land travel, a measure that Trudeau has extended from month to month. The latest closure is in effect until Feb. 21.