The federal government says it’s adding more quarantine hotels to its approved list to make sure enough rooms are available for returning travellers.
It’s also warning travellers that if they can’t secure a room before they’re due to arrive in Canada, they should change their planned arrival dates if they don’t want to risk being sent to a designated quarantine facility.
As of Feb. 22, most air passengers entering Canada must comply with new travel measures that include a three-day hotel quarantine. Passengers must pre-book their quarantine hotel stay before arriving in Canada.
But since the introduction of the new quarantine policy, travellers have reached out to CBC News to flag problems with the booking system. Many have complained of being unable to get through on the phone to the booking service, or of reaching an agent only to learn that no rooms are available.
No room at the inn
Mahsa Rezaei said she faced a stressful few days trying to book a room in Vancouver for her husband to begin his quarantine Friday night.
She said she started to make calls to secure a room last week, but was told they could only handle bookings 48 hours in advance.
But when she called back within the 48-hour booking window, she said she was told everything was sold out.
“I wanted to book the hotel properly but that was just not an option,” she said. “It was really uncertain and that was the most stressful part.”
A room eventually opened up on Thursday night. Rezaei said she was disappointed to learn that the government operator at the booking service could not tell her what happens when no hotel rooms are available.
“It was more of … ‘If you don’t have a room, you’ll still get fined,'” she said.
A Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) spokesperson said there are now 47 hotels serving as government-authorized quarantine accommodations in the four cities accepting international flights and the agency is adding more hotels to the list.
“It is important that travellers understand that it is their responsibility to ensure they have a confirmed government-authorized hotel booking before they fly to Canada or they may face enforcement action upon arrival, including fines of up to $3,000 for each day of non-compliance,” said a PHAC spokesperson.
“More rooms will become available as passengers get their test results and vacate the facilities to travel to their suitable place of quarantine. If rooms are not available for their preferred dates, travellers must change their flight for a date when a government-authorized hotel is available.”
The agency said people who can’t secure a room at a government-authorized hotel will be assessed by a quarantine officer and may be directed to a designated quarantine facility or another a suitable place to quarantine.
PHAC said it is aware of 15 tickets that were issued as of March 8 to travellers for arriving in Canada without having booked government-authorized accommodation and subsequently refusing to go to one.