All returning international travellers to Canada will have to go through new quarantine protocols at the border as of Monday to stop the spread of COVID-19. Chief among those protocols: a stay of up to three days at one of the country’s new approved quarantine hotels.
Despite online misinformation, these aren’t “quarantine camps” or any sort of internment. They’re just your run-of-the-mill airport hotel. All returning travellers must stay at one of the approved hotels at four airports — Calgary, Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal — while awaiting COVID-19 test results upon their return to Canada.
International travel comes with a hefty price tag too — a three-day stay at one of the hotels can cost you north of $2,000 according to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Last month, Trudeau said he hopes the cost is also a deterrent to international travel as COVID-19 variant cases continue to rise in Canada.
But what’s actually the deal with these hotels? Here’s what you need to know.
Where are they?
There are a total of 18 designated quarantine hotels at four major airports across Canada. All are privately owned but are authorized by the federal government to administer these quarantine stays.
In Calgary there is the Acclaim Hotel and the Calgary Airport Marriott In-Terminal Hotel.
At Vancouver International Airport there is the Days Inn by Wyndham, the Fairmont Vancouver Airport, the Four Points by Sheraton Vancouver Airport Hotel, the Radisson Vancouver Airport and the Westin Wall Centre Vancouver Airport.
At Toronto Pearson Airport there’s the Alt Hotel Pearson Airport, Fairfield Inn and Suites Toronto Airport, Four Points by Sheraton Toronto Airport, Holiday Inn Toronto International Airport, Sheraton Gateway Hotel in Toronto International Airport, and Sheraton Toronto Airport Hotel and Conference Centre.
And in Montreal there’s Aloft Montreal Airport, the Baymont by Wyndham Montreal Airport, the Crowne Plaza Montreal Airport, the Holiday Inn Express and Suites Montreal Airport, and the Montreal Airport Marriott In-Terminal.
You can expect your basic hotel services from all of these locations — beds, wi-fi, televisions and even those little bottles of shampoo.
How much does it cost?
Trudeau previously said the three-night stay could cost you up to $2,000. The exact cost varies widely per hotel but includes food, room, security, transportation to and from the terminal, and infection prevention and control measures.
The Acclaim hotel in Calgary will put you back $611 for the full three nights, while the Westin in Vancouver costs $1,827.
“The hotels are doing the billing directly, and different hotels will have different rates,” Health Minister Patty Hajdu said at a news conference Friday.
Travellers must reserve and pay for the full three nights, even if their COVID-19 test upon arrival comes back negative within a day or two. They will not be reimbursed if they are able to leave early.
How do you book?
Travellers must book their stay before arriving in Canada. You can’t book online or through the hotel’s own booking services, you have to call a toll-free number to get your spot.
The number is 1-800-294-8253 within North America and 1-613-830-2992 outside of North America.
You’ll be asked to provide details about any travellers with you as well as payment information for the cost of your stay. Travellers should get a confirmation email within four hours of booking.
When you arrive at the airport, if your own vehicle is nearby you may be allowed to drive it to the hotel so long as you don’t stop for food or gas. Otherwise, you will be directed to a dedicated quarantine hotel shuttle.
What do you have to do while there?
Most people utilizing these hotels will be asymptomatic and have tested negative before flying back to Canada. But you’ll still have to monitor yourself for COVID-19 symptoms while staying there.
Travellers also have to stay in their assigned room unless escorted by an official, wear a mask when opening the door to receive food and can’t use any shared facilities like pools or gyms.
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You also have to keep your space tidy — room cleaning won’t be available for the duration of your stay. All travellers will be provided with hand sanitizer and disinfectant for cleaning surfaces. You can, however, request additional towels and toiletries to be dropped off outside your door.
What’s the food situation?
All meals throughout your stay are covered. Travellers will receive three meals a day delivered to their door.
But if you’re hoping to imbibe with a bit of adult consumption, you’ll be disappointed. Alcohol and cannabis are deemed non-essential, and hotels are not required to deliver them to travellers during those three days,
Can people go outside?
Travellers without symptoms can go outside for a limited and monitored time, depending on the hotel. You’ll be required to wear a mask and stay two metres from others while outside.
What happens after three days?
There are three scenarios for checking out of the quarantine hotels.
Once you receive your negative test result, you can call reception to check out, even if it’s before the three days are up. If you have an approved quarantine plan — i.e. a place to stay away from others for the remaining time of the 14-day minimum — you’ll be allowed to complete the rest of the time there. If you don’t, you’ll go to a designated federal quarantine facility free of charge for the remainder of your 14 days.
If you receive a positive test, you’re required to stay in your room until a federal official calls you with further instructions regarding where and how to isolate.
If your test is inconclusive or there aren’t any results by the end of three days, you can also expect a call from federal officials. You may be allowed to return home with your approved quarantine plan or you may travel to an approved facility.
What happens if people break the rules?
Fines — a lot of them.
The mandatory hotel stay will be enforced under Canada’s Quarantine Act, which means you could net hefty fines and even jail time for trying to skirt the restrictions. Maximum penalties include a fine of up to $750,000 and/or six months in prison.
People already exempt from the 14-day quarantine at the border are also exempt from the hotel stay. This includes essential workers, cross-border workers and people receiving medical treatment.
As for everyone else, the hotel stay — and its price tag — still apply.