Federal officials said Wednesday that they are hoping to have a system in place by early July that will allow people to quarantine at home until they receive a negative result from a COVID-19 test taken upon landing.
Federal Health Minister Patty Hajdu said the government is not changing the rules around who can enter the country, but the change would make things easier for those who are eligible to enter Canada.
A person looks out the window of a room at a government-authorized COVID-19 quarantine hotel in Richmond, B.C. on Sunday, February 28, 2021. Travellers arriving in Canada are required to reserve a government-authorized hotel for three nights and stay at the hotel while awaiting the results of a COVID-19 test done upon arrival in the country. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
The government is hoping to make the changes by early July but did not set a hard date.
Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs Dominic LeBlanc said that the decision around when the change will be implemented will in part be based on the COVID-19 infection rates in the country.
LeBlanc also said the government is working with the provinces and the Canada Border Services Agency on a national document that would prove full vaccination, sometimes referred to as a vaccine passport.
He said that more details about the document are expected to be unveiled in the coming days.
If the government is not ready to roll out a sort of vaccine passport by early July, the change around quarantine hotels could still go into effect using some sort of temporary proof of vaccination in the interim, he said.
Since February, all air travellers returning to Canada on commercial flights have had to stay at a government-mandated hotel for up three days while they await results of a PCR COVID-19 test administered upon arrival at the airport terminal.
Those who test positive upon arrival must stay in the hotel or another government mandated facility for 14 days.
Those who test negative can return home to complete a 14-day quarantine, taking a second test at home on the 10th day of isolation.
The hotel isolation program has been criticized by the travel industry, provincial premiers, and even the federal government’s own advisory panel on public health measures.
Other travellers reached out to CP24 to relay fears that they contracted COVID-19 while in hotel quarantine.
There have been a high number of COVID-19 cases reported among staff at at least two of the hotels.
Those who decline to stay in one of the hotels can now be hit with a $5,000 fine.
Asked about the change in policy, Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown, a vocal critic of international travel during the pandemic, said it was acceptable.
“I think the science is clear with fully vaccinated individuals that you can lift restrictions,” he said Wednesday. “For those that aren't vaccinated I wouldn't support lifting any restrictions and I continue to be concerned that there is a high volume of flights coming into Canada, from hotspot countries like India, Pakistan and they're simply being rebooked through other countries we get feedback on that on a daily basis from different community groups who are noticing it.”