On January 29, 2021, Prime Minister Trudeau announced Canada’s intention to implement a mandatory hotel quarantine requirement for all international travellers entering Canada by air. He also announced the expansion of flight restrictions at Canadian airports.
On the same day, Transport Canada issued a news release, which provides additional details relating to these new travel restrictions. It also published a Backgrounder on the new mandatory hotel quarantine requirement and a Backgrounder on the expansion of international flight restrictions.
Expansion of international flight restrictions
According to Transport Canada’s Backgrounder on the expansion of international flight restrictions, Air Canada, WestJet, Sunwing, and Air Transat have reached an agreement with the Government of Canada to suspend all flights to and from Mexico and Caribbean countries until April 30, 2021. This suspension became effective on January 31, 2021.
In March 2020, the Minister of Transport initially approved flight restrictions to funnel scheduled international commercial passenger flights to Canada’s four largest airports: (a) Montréal-Trudeau International Airport, (b) Toronto Pearson International Airport, (c) Calgary International Airport, and (d) Vancouver International Airport. Under these original restrictions, flights from the United States, Mexico, Central America, South America and the Caribbean, as well as from Saint-Pierre-et-Miquelon, were exempt and continued to operate and land at other Canadian airports.
According to Transport Canada’s Backgrounder on the expansion of international flight restrictions, these restrictions will now be expanded to include the following flights to Canada, which will also be required to land at one of the four designated Canadian airports:
- Scheduled commercial passenger flights from the United States, Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean, and South America;
- International business/private passenger flights from all countries; and
- International charter passenger flights from all countries.
Flights from Saint-Pierre-et-Miquelon and cargo-only international flights will still be exempt from this new requirement. These expanded restrictions become effective at 11.59 p.m. EST on February 3, 2021.
The mandatory hotel quarantine requirement
The mandatory hotel quarantine requirement will function as an additional layer of protection intended to support the pre-departure COVID-19 testing requirement and the 14-day self-quarantine requirement, both of which are already in place. Although the mandatory hotel requirement is not yet in force, Transport Minister Omar Alghabra has stated that travellers should be prepared to comply with this new requirement as early as February 4, 2021.
Transport Canada’s Backgrounder on the new mandatory hotel quarantine requirement states that, in the coming weeks, international travellers arriving in Canada by air will be required to do the following:
- They will be required to take a COVID-19 molecular test upon arrival, at their own cost. Based on Canada’s existing pre-departure COVID-19 testing requirement, it is very likely that a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) or reverse transcription loop-mediated isothermal amplification (RT-LAMP) will be required.
- They will be required to reserve a room in a Government of Canada-approved hotel for three nights, at their own cost, while they await their test results. Travellers will stay in and pay for their hotel (as well as all associated costs for food, cleaning and security) while they await the results of the COVID-19 molecular test that they submitted on arrival. Prime Minister Trudeau estimated that the cost for each international traveller was expected to be $2,000.00 CAD, although the actual cost could ultimately be higher.
International travellers destined for other Canadian cities will need to wait for their test results before continuing on to their final destination. Once they arrive at their final destinations, these international travellers will still need to self-quarantine for the remainder of their 14-day self-quarantine period.
Although Transport Canada’s news release suggests that some exemptions from the mandatory hotel quarantine requirement will exist, it also states that these exemptions will be “very limited.” It is likely that any international travellers who are exempt from the 14-day self-quarantine requirement will also be exempt from the mandatory hotel quarantine requirement. However, this cannot be confirmed until Transport Canada has issued its Interim Order and/or the Governor General has issued an appropriate Order-in-Council.
As mentioned above, the mandatory hotel quarantine requirement will not apply to international travellers who do not enter Canada by air (e.g., across the Canada-U.S. land border). However, Transport Canada’s news release mentions that the Government of Canada will soon introduce a pre-arrival COVID-19 test requirement for international travellers seeking entry by land, similar to the pre-departure COVID-19 test requirement that already applies to air travellers. It also states that only limited exceptions (such as an exception for commercial truckers) will be available.