At the moment, people can fly to Bellingham or Seattle and take a bus service, taxi or ride-hail to a land crossing to avoid the hotel quarantine

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The Government of Canada has made it law that anyone returning by air must pay for a three-day hotel quarantine and needs a negative COVID-19 test result before they can leave.

Details of the program were released last Friday by the Public Health Agency of Canada, with the program starting on Monday (Feb. 22).

Here’s five things that anyone returning by air to Vancouver needs to know.

1- How do I book a room at a quarantine hotel? 

All hotel bookings must be done by phone between 8 a.m. and 11 p.m. ET. There is no online option. If you call within North America it is toll free at 1-800-294-8253 and outside of North America you can call collect at 1-613-830-2992.

The program is run by Amex Global Business Travel out of their Montreal office, said travel agent Claire Newell. Newell called the 1-800 number on Friday and waited three hours before being connected to an operator — who did a good job, she said.

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PHAC says to book within 48-hours of departure. The booking agent takes personal details, and flight and arrival details. Flying into Vancouver, you get a choice of four hotels and must pay in advance with no refunds available. You take the PCR test at the airport.

Each booking comes with contactless meal service plus landline and internet service and access to outdoor space for brief breaks of fresh air.

2 — What are my hotel options and what will it cost? 

Newell said there are four options and all are at the Vancouver International Airport (though only three are listed by the Government of Canada).

They are the Fairmont Vancouver airport, Westin Wall Centre Vancouver airport, Days Inn Vancouver airport and Radisson Vancouver airport.

She said for one person the Fairmont was the cheapest at $1,635 including tax. The most expensive for a single was the Days Inn at $2,262 for the three nights. The Fairmont was most expensive for a family of four at $4,151.

3 — What are the exemptions?

There are no exemptions on compassionate grounds or for people seeking medical treatment abroad, for students or for unaccompanied minors.

The program is a deterrent to travel and has no deadline.

4 — Are there loopholes?

At the moment, people can fly to Bellingham or Seattle and take a bus service, taxi or ride-hail service to a land crossing — so avoiding the hotel quarantine.

Anyone returning by land has to prove they are COVID-19 negative within the past three days or prove they were COVID-19 positive more than two weeks before crossing (because they are considered immune.)

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5 — Why is this happening?

Since early in the pandemic anyone arriving in Canada — by land, sea and air — has to self isolate for two weeks (except essential workers.) Health authorities in each province are responsible for monitoring and testing people in self isolation.

In early January, the federal government ruled that all commercial air passengers must have a COVID-19 negative test result within three days of arriving in Canada.

Then, in early February, the government (through the PHSA) ruled that commercial travellers arriving in Canada would have to pay for the three day hotel quarantine.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says the reason for the stricter rules is the emergence of COVID-19 variants of concern that are spread more easily than the early novel coronavirus.

As of Friday, B.C. had 72 reported cases of variants of concern. Fifty-two of these cases were the U.K. variant, while 20 were the South African variant. Meanwhile, staff and students at five schools in the Fraser Health region received notice of possible exposure to the U.K. variant of COVID-19 on Saturday.

None of the travel quarantine rules apply to essential travellers.

dcarrigg@postmedia.com

twitter.com/davidcarrigg

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