New guidelines seem to push worldwide air journey down even additional than pre-pandemic

OTTAWA – Canada’s new COVID-19 testing and quarantine rules for international air travelers seem to have persuaded even more potential travelers to stay there in recent weeks.

OTTAWA – Canada’s new COVID-19 testing and quarantine rules for international air travelers seem to have persuaded even more potential travelers to stay there in recent weeks.

In the last two weeks of January, international arrivals dropped to 106,000 people, and in the first two weeks of February they continued to decline to 94,000 people, according to the Canada Border Services Agency.

The decline in international arrivals in early February is about four times as high as between early January and early February 2019 and 2020.

It came after Ottawa began to provide evidence of negative COVID-19 tests to all international air travelers before boarding their planes.

Since February 22, international air travelers have to be quarantined in certain hotels for three days after landing until the results of the second COVID-19 tests are available.

“It’s a very strong incentive for people to fly,” said John Gradek, aviation expert and lecturer at McGill University. “They scared everyone with a $ 2,000 bill for those three days.”

The government started thinking about the quarantines in January but didn’t confirm the details until February 12. The CBSA data does not yet reflect the potential impact.

Reports of 10-hour phone waiting times when booking a room and overcrowded hotels with late meal service have only added to the incentive since the quarantine rule came into effect on February 22nd.

“It looks like it’s getting completely out of hand,” said Marty Firestone, president of Travel Secure, a Toronto-based travel insurance company.

“It’s not just a logistical nightmare, it’s turning into a nightmare.”

He said the quarantine is pushing snowbirds to delay their return or to make plans to fly to a border town like Buffalo, NY, and travel overland to Canada – usually by car rental – so as not to be hidden in a hotel. The quarantine only applies to air travelers.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and national health officials urged Canadians last March to avoid international travel as the COVID-19 pandemic spread rapidly around the world.

In late March, they began preventing most non-nationals or permanent residents from traveling here for purposes that are not considered essential – for example, to help out the pandemic or to keep truck drivers supplied with supplies.

The effects were relatively quick and massive. International arrivals decreased from an average of about 780,000 per week in April and May 2019 to less than 20,000 per week in 2020.

While air traffic began to increase in summer and increased further in December, it remained overall constant below 10 percent of the value of previous years.

After Christmas there was a small increase: nearly 170,000 people came to Canada by air between December 28 and January 10.

This corresponds to about 128,000 between December 14th and 27th.

This Canadian press report was first published on March 2, 2021.

– With files from Christopher Reynolds

Mia Rabson, the Canadian press

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