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‘More and more people understand’: travelers who use the Canada-U.S. Land border to avoid quarantine hotels

Greg Peacock crossed the Rainbow Bridge in Niagara Falls, Ontario, and returned to Canada with his three puppies in hand, stopping to take selfies, but he didn’t cross here for the view. He chose this point of entry from the United States to avoid the mandatory three-day stay in a quarantine hotel that applies to air travelers entering Canada. “I don’t want to spend three days or anything locked in a hotel when I’m back in Toronto for work,” he said. He is one of many Canadians who go to US airports near the Canada-US border and cross on foot or hire car services to drive them to avoid staying in the quarantine hotels required for travelers. aerial. Instead of flying directly to Toronto’s Pearson International Airport, Peacock flew from Los Angeles to Buffalo, NY, took a cab to the border, entered Canada, and took the train to Toronto. “It takes a little longer, but it’s an adventure,” he said. Peacock told CBC News he will be quarantined after returning home. Since the three-day hotel quarantine rule came into effect in February, Peacock has crossed the Canadian border twice on his way home from Los Angeles, where his wife lives. (Greg Peacock) Almost 20,000 land crossings since February 21. Across the Border is neither new nor illegal, but it violates non-essential travel advice and allows travelers to avoid staying in one of the federally sanctioned quarantine hotels which can be costly. up to $ 2,000 for a three day stay – a requirement for these. arriving by plane. The temporary measures and the closure of the Canada-U.S. Land border, which came into effect in March 2020, have both been extended until May 21. Peacock is not alone. Since the hotel rules came into effect on February 21, nearly 20,000 people have crossed the border by land (not including essential workers), according to CBC News analysis of figures provided by the Border Services Agency. of Canada (CBSA). Whether Canadians return by land or air, if they are not essential workers or otherwise exempted, under federal guidelines, they must quarantine for 14 days, with air travelers spending the first three days in a hotel until ‘until they get the result of a COVID-19 test. Ground travelers should proceed directly to their quarantine destination after crossing the border. Special rules for snowbirds? Scott and Caryl Rutledge of Toronto chose to fly to Buffalo Niagara International Airport and hire a limo to take them across the border rather than returning home from Tampa, Florida, where they have property and have spent the last two months. We showed up with negative COVID tests, ”Scott Rutledge told CBC News as he and his wife sat in the back of the limo on the Canadian side of the Rainbow Bridge in Niagara Falls. “We believe ourselves to be 100% healthy when it comes to COVID, and so everything else was unnecessary duplication. It’s overkill in the extreme, at least as far as it applies to us.” The couple paid about C $ 350 for the trip from the Buffalo airport, plus US $ 200 each for their COVID-19 tests. Scott and Caryl Rutledge return to Canada after spending two months in Tampa, Florida, where they own. The Toronto couple hired a limousine service to bring them back from the Buffalo airport to their home. They both received a COVID-19 vaccine in Florida. (Laura Clementson / CBC) They said there should be different rules for snowbirds like them. “I think there should have been two entry levels: one for snowbirds – vaccinated people who have been gone for more than months – and … different rules maybe for people who have gone on vacation. for two weeks. thing different, ”said Caryl Rutledge. Although land borders are closed to non-essential travel, all Canadian citizens have the right to enter Canada. But like air travelers, they must show a negative COVID-19 test carried out within 72 hours of arriving at the border and have a quarantine plan. For those traveling from overseas via the United States, a negative test must be presented upon arrival in the United States, according to the United States government, and again at the land border upon entering Canada. Travelers also receive a take-home test to take on the 10th day of their return. There are no exemptions for those who have already been vaccinated. Once the pedestrians enter Canada, they are escorted into a tent, pictured here at the Rainbow Bridge in Niagara Falls. There they are reviewed and briefed on COVID-19 protocols. (Greg Bruce / CBC) Local authorities monitor quarantine compliance The CBSA told CBC News it does not track Canadians returning home after being vaccinated against COVID-19 abroad. But the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) is keeping track of travelers who have tested positive for COVID-19. From February 22 to April 18, the agency told CBC News it received 50,905 test results from land travelers on the day they arrived in Canada. Of these, 128 tested positive for COVID-19, for a positivity rate of 0.25%. During the same period for air travelers, the agency received 144,177 test results, of which 2,541 – or 1.76% – were positive for COVID-19, PHAC said. The agency also monitors quarantine compliance for air and ground travelers with the help of local law enforcement agencies, the RCMP and third-party security companies. Between February 21 and April 19, more than 111,000 air travelers and 43,000 ground travelers received a third-party compliance verification visit, according to PHAC. And during the same period, RCMP and local law enforcement agencies tracked 13,500 air travelers and 5,900 ground travelers – 95% of whom were found to be in compliance with quarantine orders. Prices for flights to Buffalo are rising In an email to CBC News, Canada’s public health agency said “compliance with border measures is high.” CBC News asked Health Canada for advice on why people traveling by air are forced to go to a hotel while those entering the country by land are not, but have not been granted access. direct response. Health Canada said in an email that “the Government of Canada is continually evaluating the effects of border measures.” Land border crossings could attract more attention in light of Canada’s decision on Thursday to ban passenger flights from India and Pakistan for 30 days in response to rising COVID cases -19 and the spread of new variants. Airlines also seem to have understood the loophole at the land border. Prices for flights to Buffalo from popular snowbird destinations like Tampa, Orlando, Florida, Phoenix, Arizona and Los Angeles have all been on the rise since the quarantine hotel rules took effect in Canada. “I felt pretty smart at first, but apparently more people get it,” said Peacock, who travels back and forth monthly to be with his wife in Los Angeles. “Flights to Buffalo were crowded. Prices are going up.” WATCH | How Some Canadians Bypass Quarantine Rules for Air Travelers: Auto Services Record Stable Business Ground transportation services are also boosted. About 30 kilometers from the Rainbow Bridge at the Peace Bridge in Fort Erie, Ont., Bethea Reznik is sitting in her van in the parking lot closest to the border. She reads while waiting for a Canadian passenger to be dropped off by an American auto service. She will then drive the Canadian to Toronto. Bethea Reznik, who has a private car service, picks up passengers from a parking lot closest to the US border after they are dropped off by a US taxi. Reznik says she makes about two round trips from Toronto each week. (Greg Bruce / CBC) American bus and taxi drivers are seen as essential service providers, allowing them to get Canadians across the border. “I’ve been very busy,” she said of her own business. “I’m just trying to help people as much as I can.” Reznik said she makes about two round trips from Toronto per week. She said she felt for her passengers who are affected by the extra steps now required to get to where they want to go. Parked near Reznik’s van, Alison Noble waits for her son, Eric Noble-Marks, to be dropped off by an American cab. The Boston law student was on his way home to Toronto. Noble-Marks said he was vaccinated, but given the limited information on the ability to transmit the virus after vaccination, he opted for a land crossing as it seemed safer than flying. Eric Noble-Marks, a Boston law student from Toronto, took an American cab across the border to a parking lot near the Peace Bridge in Fort Erie, Ont., Where his mother was waiting for him to take him home (Laura Clementson / CBC) “I wanted to do something where I minimized the change of hands as much as possible,” he said. He plans to quarantine at home with his mother, he said. Noble-Marks said he was not opposed to requiring travelers to stay in a quarantine hotel if it helped slow the spread of COVID-19, but it should not have a cost. “It’s one thing to stay in a hotel for a few days. It’s another thing to be on the spot,” he said. “I was not going to a hotel” For some travelers who spoke to CBC News, avoiding a hotel stay was not a matter of cost, but of health. Betty Bennett, who winters in Arizona, took an American car service from Buffalo Airport to her home in Orillia, Ont., Because she insisted on going straight home. “I would not go to any meeting place after hearing what happened with the nursing homes,” she said. “So there wasn’t even a choice for me … I didn’t go to a hotel.” PHAC told CBC News that as of April 18, 45,194 hotel rooms have been booked in government-authorized accommodations using the Global Business System, which does not include rooms that travelers have booked directly with hotels. Each of these reservations may include multiple rooms and / or guests. The majority of rooms were booked in Toronto with 26,454, followed by Vancouver with 10,921. About 49,000 air travelers, or 11% of the total, were exempted from staying in a hotel. Regarding fines for those who avoid a hotel stay, PHAC told CBC News that as of April 19, it was aware of 404 tickets given to travelers who did not book a hotel or refused to stay there. The fine for refusing to go to the hotel is $ 3,000.

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