OTTAWA — A mandatory three-day hotel quarantine for most travellers landing at Canadian airports got off to a rough start on Monday, as some passengers complained of long waits to access the hotel-booking system.
At the Montreal-Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport, some travellers arriving on a flight from Brussels spoke of disconnected calls and hours or even days waiting on the line to make a reservation.
Loveline Akonbeng, travelling originally from Cameroon, said it took her sister three days waiting on the phone for multiple hours to finally get through. "Three hours of waiting and sometimes the line would cut off by itself," said Akonbeng, who described feeling "panicked" as her trip neared its end.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said the tighter border controls are meant to keep everyone safe, not punish travellers. At a press conference on Friday, Trudeau acknowledged there had been issues with the phone lines but said the problems would be cleared up shortly.
“Our officials are working very hard to ensure that quarantine system is in place by Monday, and we will be able to communicate with Canadians with regard to instructions on how to comply with those measures,” Trudeau said at the time.
The hotel stays, which must be paid for by the travellers, are just one of a series of measures that came into effect on Monday to limit the spread of COVID-19 and the introduction of variants considered more transmissible than the dominant virus strain circulating in the country.
Most incoming air travellers will need to get tested for the virus upon arrival and again toward the end of their mandatory 14-day quarantine.
Travellers arriving at land borders will be given self-swab kits, and testing will be provided on site at five, high-volume border crossings. The new rules are in addition to previous orders that require a negative test result within 72 hours of arrival. Travellers will need to complete a second test on Day 10 of their self-isolation period.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 22, 2021.