Of the 21,939 people who’ve landed in Canada since the federal government’s hotel quarantine began, just 267 tested positive for COVID-19, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada. That works out to be 1.2 per cent of all international travellers who arrived via land or air in the country between February 22 and March 4.
Canadian Daniel Kerzner has been living in the U.K. for 15 years but has travelled home a few times during the pandemic to see family. Each time, he has quarantined for a couple of weeks and will be doing so again after arriving in Toronto Friday. The difference this time will be the need to check into a hotel based on recent federal quarantine rules.
“What’s a little confusing, is that you’re forced to book a three-night stay in a hotel,” he said. “[When booking] online you’re able to see what the rates are as part of this program versus what the standard rates are… and you realize how inflated those rates are.”
“You also start hearing stories about people who get the test results much quicker than three days, but still have to pay for the hotel for three days so that’s a bit confusing.”
As well, Kerzner noted the rules seem contradictory in some ways.
“Being asked to take an Uber or a taxi to a hotel actually seems like you’re putting yourself more at risk to go to the hotel than if you just went to your own private quarantine facility for 14 days,” he said.
“Why are you exposing yourself to more people? That seems wrong, it seems wrong to have to pay for a hotel for three days. If you only need to be in the hotel for two days or for one day, why aren’t you able to get your money back?”
As CityNews reported earlier this week, a lawyer with the Canadian Civil Liberties Association brought up similar concerns, saying some air passengers who refuse to comply with the mandatory hotel quarantine may have a legal ground to stand on.
Meanwhile, a constitutional rights advocacy group is mounting a legal challenge to the same policy, arguing it infringes on Canadians’ fundamental rights.
Professor of Psychology at U of T Steve Joordens said this particular policy may reflect the psychology of leadership in the current climate.
“A lot of people are reacting to this like, ‘Why are we doing this? It seems like a threat we don’t need to have and it scares us,’” he said. “And I think that’s the leaders responding to so that… like, ‘I hear the emotion, I hear the worries and I’m going to do something about them.’”
“We call that optics, and we sometimes sort of downplay optics and we say, ‘You’re just doing that for whatever.’ But that’s what feeds into the emotionality and that’s what makes us feel like, ‘We can trust this person. They are in control, they’re willing to make tough decisions that are unpopular, in this case for travellers, but they’re protecting us.’ And so sometimes having those actions are the more concrete way of making us feel safe.”
The requirement for all international passengers arriving at major Canadian airports to complete a mandatory three-day hotel quarantine was put into place on February 22.
According to the Public Health Agency of Canada, as of March 6, there have been 11,440 hotel rooms booked through the government-mandated phone number.
As of March 8, the government has issued at least 15 tickets to travellers arriving in Canada with no quarantine bookings, and who refused to go to a quarantine hotel. Most people have been fined $3,000 under the Quarantine Act. It’s not clear if that’s in total, or for each day of non-compliance, as described under the act.