Toronto area family questions COVID-19 travel rules after spending days in quarantine facility
A Toronto area family is questioning Canada's COVID-19 testing and travel rules after spending days in a quarantine hotel following their return from South Africa.
The Hayes family left for South Africa on Nov. 13 and were scheduled to return to Canada on Nov. 28. They said they received their negative COVID-19 tests and arrived at the airport, but then "everything kind of hit the fan."
"We got to the airport in Cape Town, and we were told that the Canadian government decided to change the COVID testing rules requiring a third country COVID test," Doug Hayes said. "So that meant that when we arrived in Ethiopia, we had to test there and get the results back."
Hayes said that he and his two adult daughters had to wait in the airport for the test results to come back negative. They ended up missing their original flight and spent about 30 hours at the airport in Addis Ababa.
When the family finally arrived at Toronto International Pearson Airport on Sunday morning, they expected to have to self-quarantine for 14 days. Instead, they were told they had to get a COVID-19 test at the airport and then go to a quarantine hotel while they awaited their results.
Days later, the Aurora, Ont. family is still waiting.
"The COVID tests results that we got in South Africa and Ethiopia, and prior to that Botswana, took about eight to 12 hours," Hayes said. "Back here in Canada we're told that it's 72 hours or so."
The hotel room has a small living space and a sleeping area with two beds, according to video sent to CTV News Toronto by Hayes. The family says they receive three meals a day delivered to them in a paper bag, but that it took two days for a broken coffee machine to be replaced.
"I called down to the desk and said 'Can we get some ice? You don't have any choice, you can't get Diet Coke or juice or anything. You get whatever they bring you to drink. So I said ‘Can we get some ice?’ and the guy said ‘This isn't a hotel, it's a quarantine center.’"
One of Hayes' daughters, who suffers from chronic migraines, also called down to the lobby multiple times for some Advil and feminine products. The family says it took staff a full day to respond, and they only did so when she threatened to leave the hotel to walk to a pharmacy.
Hayes said that even when his family gets their test results back, they can't just pack up and leave. They have to wait until the staff can "coordinate" their exit.
"We're all missing work. We have two dogs at home," Hayes said, adding that the family's return has now been delayed by nine days. "We've got to get somebody to take care of our house and our dogs, and I mean it's frustrating."
Hayes said the new travel and testing rules add to the frustration. He questions why Canada decided to impose a third country test requirement.
"I mean the notion of sending Canadians to another country, another group of flights, exposing them to another airport, another plane, another group of travellers that just defies logic."
The federal government imposed new travel restrictions on Nov. 30 requiring all Canadians travelling by air, with the exception of those coming from the United States, to be tested at the airport in addition to the test required prior to boarding a flight. Fully vaccinated individuals will be allowed to self-isolate at home until they get a negative result. Those who have not been fully vaccinated must continue to isolate for 14 days.
However, the rules change slightly for Canadians flying in from one of 10 countries in southern Africa. Those travellers must get tested in a third country prior to arriving in a Canadian airport.
Once they arrive in Canada, those travellers will have to take a COVID-19 test at the airport and remain in a government quarantine facility until they get a negative result.
Fully vaccinated individuals will then be able to complete their isolation period at home while they away their day eight COVID-19 test.
Those who are unvaccinated must remain in the government facility for 14 days.
The Public Health Agency of Canada said that travellers required to quarantine or isolate in a designated facility "are not required to pay for the costs associated with their stay."
With files from CTV News Toronto's Rahim Ladhani