A couple from Brandon, Man., Who are in quarantine at a hotel in Toronto after a recent trip to South Africa, say they feel “criminalized” as travelers after the federal government imposed restrictions on 10 African countries. of the presence of a new variant of coronavirus. .
One day after Lennard and Charlotte Skead traveled to South Africa, where they both originally come from, the World Health Organization released information about a new concern variant of the coronavirus called omicron or the B.1.1.529 variant, which was discovered in Land.
The couple, who were in South Africa to access medical care, made several attempts shortly after their arrival to find an airline that could bring them back to Canada.
“We were extremely frustrated at not being able to find much [airline tickets] because of course there were hundreds of people, hundreds of Canadians there, who wanted to come back. Calls to the airlines took hours on hold; it was total chaos, “said Lennard Skead.
On their journey back to Canada, they had to take six COVID-19 tests, all of which came back negative before being allowed to enter the country again.
Skead says he just feels grateful they came back.
“We were just lucky,” he said, even though it cost them a lot of money to return – a total of almost $ 23,500 so far for flights, COVID-19 tests and hotels.
In addition, their bags were lost and the food they have been served at the hotel consistently contains allergens, which the couple has brought to the attention of the staff.
Restrictions intended to protect Canadians
Health Canada announced on November 26 that foreign nationals who had traveled through one of the seven affected countries – including South Africa – within the last 14 days will not have access to Canada to slow down the spread of the omicron variant in Canada.
Canadian citizens and permanent residents are allowed to return home, but they must be quarantined and tested for COVID-19.
Four days later, three other nations were added to the list of countries with travel restrictions, which went into effect on Wednesday.
Federal Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos told a news conference Friday that Canada has taken strong border measures throughout the pandemic to protect Canadians’ health and safety.
“I think, and that’s what we hear from public health officials, that what we announced last week last Friday [Nov. 26] and on Tuesday it is currently the best set of measures, given the necessity and capacity that we face when dealing with these issues, “he said.
Duclos said travelers from the 10 countries should expect to be tested for COVID-19 when they arrive in Canada and be ready to isolate themselves.
“It will take a few days before we are able to test all targeted travelers, but we are increasing our capacity rapidly and testing more and more travelers every day,” he said.
Meanwhile, Skead, who is three days into his quarantine, believes travelers like himself and his wife are being treated badly.
He says he would like there to be a grace period for travelers who were already abroad when restrictions were announced.
“My experience from landing in Toronto Pearson [International Airport] right up in the hotel has made us feel criminalized, “Skead said.
“It has made us feel that we are not welcome in our own country and that we are carrying on a form of terrible disease that will be the doom of the world, despite our six negative COVID-19 tests.”