Health Minister Patty Hajdu says she’ll consult with the provinces before acting on a new report calling for an end to the federal government’s mandatory hotel quarantine policy for air travellers returning to Canada.
Her remarks come the day after a new report on the effectiveness of Canada’s border restrictions recommended that the federal government dump the policy in favour of letting people come up with their own quarantine plans.
The advice is found in the fourth report by the federal government’s COVID-19 Testing and Screening Expert Advisory Panel, which has been examining land and air border measures to screen for COVID-19.
“Certainly I’ll be having a conversation with health ministers about the implications of the report and what people’s thoughts are in terms of their own jurisdictions and as a country as a whole,” Hajdu told reporters during a virtual news conference today.
“I don’t think I can comment yet in terms of what the plan will be, because we haven’t had that conversation as of yet.”
In February, the federal government brought in new quarantine measures at airports that require all air travellers returning from non-essential trips abroad to isolate in federally mandated facilities for up to 72 hours while they await the results of polymerase chain reaction tests — commonly known as PCR tests — for COVID-19.
People arriving at land borders are required to take COVID-19 tests when they enter the country and again during their 14-day isolation period at home — but are not required to stay at a federally mandated quarantine facility, such as a hotel.
The advisory panel’s report says the mandatory three-day quarantine rule is flawed for a number of reasons — chief among them the fact that Canadians who choose to pay fines of up to $3,000 rather than go to designated quarantine facilities may not be following isolation precautions.
The report also said that because the rule requiring quarantine at government-authorized facilities only applies to air travellers, some Canadians are opting to fly to U.S. airports near Canadian border points and finish the trip home by land.
The hotel quarantine restrictions are slated to expire on June 21.
“This report provides us with a roadmap, if you will, of the next steps we can consider as we begin to see an increased protection of Canadians through vaccination and the reduction of COVID-19,” said Hajdu.
The panel also suggested ways the government could screen travellers.
For example, non-exempt travellers who are partially vaccinated (with one dose of a two-dose vaccine) and test negative upon arrival using a PCR test should be able to leave self-quarantine, while those who do test positive should isolate “according to public health guidance,” says the report.