An Edmonton woman with extreme celiac disease says she has not eaten for at least 40 hours because she has not been given gluten-free food at a quarantine hotel in Toronto.
Janet Game said she last ate around 6 p.m. 4:30 AM EST Saturday, December 4, while on a flight from Ethiopia.
Janet and her husband Maku Game arrived in Toronto at 7.30am on 4 December and were ordered to quarantine until they received a negative COVID-19 test because Maku had been in South Africa 13 days earlier where the Omicron variant of the coronavirus has spread.
As of November 30, Canada requires those who have been to South Africa within 14 days to stay at a designated quarantine facility while awaiting the results of an arrival test, even if they are fully vaccinated.
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Maku has received three doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, and Janet has received two doses.
Maku said they arrived at the Hilton hotel for quarantine around 1 p.m. 16.30 on December 4, but did not receive dinner that evening.
The next morning they got no meal either. It was not until lunchtime on December 5 that she said they were getting their first meal – a serving of crispy, non-gluten-free chicken.
Janet said she has severe celiac disease and her food may not even be cross-contaminated with gluten. If she eats gluten, she will be in great pain and have diarrhea, she said.
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“I have to be careful.”
Maku said they told the hotel about the dietary restriction when they first arrived.
They said there is only one point of contact at the hotel, the Red Cross Canada, and there is no one at the front desk.
They tried to call the Red Cross Canada at least five times during Dec. 5, saying they were on hold for up to an hour before coming in contact with anyone.
When they were finally able to reach a representative, they took their request for food, but at noon they again received a portion of a meal that was not gluten-free.
Janet has been drinking sugar water to keep her energy up as she struggles with a broken leg she injured in Africa, she said.
Canada Red Cross spokeswoman Kirsten Long said the organization looks at the issue and that it “supports returning travelers with immediate and new needs upon arrival and works as quickly as possible to help meet their unique needs.”
Global News contacted Public Safety Canada and Global Affairs Canada, but did not receive a response in time for publication.
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“I just want to go home, I have not eaten anything,” Janet told Global News. “I’m extremely tired and extremely exhausted.”
The games are not allowed to leave their room or receive food orders, such as from Uber Eats or from their relatives living nearby.
“It’s so scary,” Janet said of the hotel atmosphere. “You can not see anyone. They lay wall-to-wall plastic.
“It’s like a science fiction world here.… They take it too far.”
They have received a negative COVID-19 test result after making an effort to speed it up from the lab, but are still waiting for public health to give them the green light to board a plane back to Edmonton, where they have lived for 20 years.
They hope to get a plane there on Monday morning.
“It’s awful,” Maku said. “We adhere to public health measures, but this treatment should not be done in Canada. Not even elsewhere. We say Canada – this kind of treatment should not be done anywhere.
“It’s very shameful.”
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