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Vaccinated snowbirds say they’re being ‘punished’ with Canada’s COVID-19 hotel quarantine

Some among the thousands of snowbirds flocking back to Canada for the spring are expressing frustration over having to undergo the federally mandated hotel quarantine — even after getting shots of the COVID-19 vaccine.

The new quarantine measures, which went into effect in late February, include additional PCR tests for those flying back once they arrive as well as up to three days of quarantine at a hotel — which could cost an ample $2,000 that travelers have to pay on their own dime.

Read more:
‘They want to lock us into a hotel’: Snowbirds criticize new travel measures

The reason for the restrictions — at least according to Health Canada and several immunology experts — is that while vaccines are effective at preventing severe illness in those who have contracted the disease, it still isn’t clear if getting a jab prevents a person from spreading the virus.

Still, Canadians returning from popular snowbird locations such as Florida have expressed furor at the federal government’s mandate.

Click to play video: Most Canadians support travel restrictions, Ipsos poll finds

“I’m a Canadian Snowbird who has been in Florida since December fully vaccinated 2 SHOTS Florida has vaccinated 8.5 million in the state,” wrote one person on Twitter.

“But I’m being punished when I come home in this political stunt Covid hotel.”

“All of us snowbirds returning to Canada will be fully vaccinated, thanks to the U.S. giving us the vaccine. And yet you still want us to hotel quarantine when we could more safely quarantine at home,” wrote another user.

In previous interviews with Global News, Canadian snowbirds also expressed frustration over the strict measures, saying that they shouldn’t be forced to quarantine like other incoming Canadian travelers.

Gerald and Robert Smith-Berish, a Greater Toronto Area couple vacationing who left for Florida in December said they were able to get fully vaccinated there in January.

Read more:
No sympathy for snowbirds: Most Canadians support travel restrictions, Ipsos poll finds

Both argue that since they were able to get the vaccine, they should at least be able to quarantine at home instead of having to spend three days at a hotel on their own dime.

“We would have no trouble getting a test, showing our vaccination certificates, getting on a plane, flying to Toronto,” Berish said to Global News in a February interview.

“But then (the government wants) to lock us into a hotel.”

The Canadian Snowbirds Association (CSA) voiced discontent over the measures as well.

Click to play video: Some Canadian snowbirds continue to defy travel warnings

“To force Canadian citizens to pay over $2,000 for three nights of accommodation in a government-approved hotel is unreasonable and will be a financial hardship for many,” wrote CSA President Karen Huestis in Feb. 1 letter to Transportation Minister Omar Alghabra.

“While the CSA is supportive of point of entry testing for COVID-19 at all Canadian airports and land crossings, we are firmly opposed to the imminent mandatory hotel quarantine measure to be imposed by the federal government.”

Still, some have also expressed support for the quarantine measures as Canada heads into a third wave of the pandemic federal modelling predicts to potentially surpass 12,000 daily cases.

“Last year, 1,000s of people violated quarantine. They proved they can’t be trusted. Hence the govt-mandated hotels,” tweeted user Lori Sirianni.

Since the start of the pandemic, hundreds of fines have been issued to those flouting the federal Quarantine Act. In B.C. alone, at least 118 violation tickets were issued, according to police agencies there.

Previous Ipsos polling released on the heels of the measures found that the vast majority of Canadians supported the new travel restrictions, while very few agreed that exceptions should be made to snowbirds currently south of the border.

Read more:
From insurance to hotel quarantine, new travel rules leave snowbirds in a conundrum

The poll found that while 41 per cent of Canadians thought some exceptions should be made for those who left the country before the new rules were announced, that sympathy fizzled to 31 per cent when it came to whether “we need to be more supportive of the needs of Canada’s ‘snowbirds’ who travel to second homes or longer-term rentals in places like Florida, Arizona, Mexico.”

Click to play video: The impact of tough new travel rules on Canadian snowbirds

“Interestingly, the people who are hardest on snowbirds are older Canadians, which suggests that they’re making different choices than the people that they’re seeing who are travelling south and taking on their usual snowbird lifestyle,” Darrell Bricker, CEO of Ipsos Public Affairs, said in a previous interview with Global News.

“Or maybe there’s a few people who would like to be snowbirds who are upset that other people can do it, but (there’s) not a lot of sympathy for snowbirds right now.”

Despite the mandatory hotel quarantine remaining a requirement for those flying into the country, that same restriction currently does not apply to those crossing over any of the Canada-U.S. land borders.

While it’s still unclear whether a significant amount of snowbirds will instead be opting to stay in place or drive back home, some travel companies have viewed those restrictions as a business opportunity themselves — with ads and deals targeted specifically at those wanting to return back home.

— with files from Brittany Rosen, Rachel Gilmore and Saba Aziz

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