Ontario asks for mandatory three-day hotel quarantines at land crossings
By Shawn Jeffords
TORONTO — Ontario is asking the federal government to impose mandatory three-day quarantines in hotels for travellers entering Canada at land crossings.
Health Minister Christine Elliott and Solicitor General Sylvia Jones say they’re making the request in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19 in the province.
Travellers arriving at Canada’s international airports currently have to stay in a specially designated hotel for three days before completing a 14-day quarantine at home.
The province says there are reports of international travellers booking return flights into nearby American airports, taking a taxi to a United States-Canada land crossing, and walking or driving across the border.
“These reports are deeply troubling and further illustrate the extreme risk that inadequate border measures pose in the face of deadly COVID-19 variants,” the Ontario ministers say in the letter.
Elliott and Jones ask their federal counterparts, Ministers Patty Hajdu and Bill Blair, to close the loophole and ensure there are federally-approved quarantine hotels at land border crossings in Niagara Region, Windsor, Sarnia, and Brockville.
“It is important that all travelers in these regions are met with the same quarantine requirement, to ensure that all points of entry are protected,” they wrote.
The federal government did not immediately respond to request for comment.
Earlier this week, the province asked Ottawa for enhanced measures for interprovincial travellers as it continues to grapple with skyrocketing hospitalizations and cases of COVID-19 variants.
In a letter Monday to the federal ministers of health and public safety, Ontario said it has already closed its boundaries with Quebec and Manitoba to non-essential travel, but there are no measures in place to protect provinces from the spread of COVID-19 variants through interprovincial air travel, an area of federal responsibility.
The province asked for mandatory pre-departure PCR testing for all domestic air travellers entering Ontario, an extension to current rules for international passengers seeking entry into Canada.
That letter said there had been 17 domestic flights in the past two weeks to Toronto’s Person International Airport with possible COVID-19 exposures.
It said have also been potential exposures on flights landing at other Ontario airports, including Ottawa and Hamilton.
Meanwhile, Ontario’s Long-Term Care COVID-19 Commission is to submit its final report to the provincial government on Friday.
The commission has examined what went wrong in the province’s response to the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.
As of Thursday, 3,768 long-term care residents have died of COVID-19 in Ontario.
The commission interviewed a range of people and groups, from Long-Term Care Minister Merrilee Fullerton to doctors and personal support workers to family members of residents who were ill.
The report is to include recommendations on how the province can protect long-term care homes from any future pandemics.
The commission has already released two sets of interim recommendations.
With files from John Chidley-Hill