British Columbia

106 air passengers have been fined for refusing mandatory quarantine at YVR, health agency says

The Public Health Agency of Canada said it's handed out tickets to 106 passengers arriving at Vancouver International Airport since quarantine rules were put in place on Feb. 22 to try to cut off the flow of coronavirus into Canada and discourage non-essential travel.

Travellers risk fines of thousands of dollars if they flout 3-day hotel stay

The majority of people who enter Canada by air are obliged to quarantine at a government-sanctioned hotel for three days, which can cost around $2,500. (Shutterstock / Adam Melnyk)

More than 100 fines have been issued to international air travellers arriving in B.C. who refused to stay in a hotel for mandatory quarantine.

The Public Health Agency of Canada said it's handed out tickets to 106 passengers arriving at Vancouver International Airport since quarantine rules were put in place on Feb. 22 to try to cut off the flow of coronavirus into Canada and discourage non-essential travel.

The majority of people who enter Canada by air are obliged to quarantine at a government-sanctioned hotel for three days, which can cost around $2,500. The three-day hotel stay is part of the 14-day quarantine period mandatory for all arrivals into Canada, barring exemptions. 

Around eight per cent of air travellers have been given exemptions, PHAC said. They are mostly workers in the trade or transport sector, including aircrew, the agency said.

However, at least 106 air travellers who arrived in Vancouver requiring to go into quarantine in a hotel opted to risk thousands of dollars in fines instead, according to an email from PHAC.

Under the Contraventions Act, police can enforce the federal Quarantine Act and hand out tickets of up to $3,000 for each day a person does not comply with the regulations. Those who refuse to follow mandatory quarantine are also subject to a fine of up to $750,000 and/or imprisonment for up to six months, as per the Quarantine Act. 

PHAC said the "majority" of incoming air travellers who have tested positive for coronavirus opted to follow the rules and quarantine in a government-authorized hotel or facility, but did not give specific numbers.

In April so far, the B.C. Centre for Disease Control has reported 23 flights in and out of Vancouver International Airport that had at least one infected passenger on board. 

As of April 3, 32,139 bookings for government-accredited hotel quarantine stays were made across the country's four hubs that allow international arrivals, PHAC said. That number includes 19,396 in Toronto, 4,167 in Montreal, 1,436 in Calgary and 7,140 in Vancouver. Each booking could involve multiple guests or rooms.

Travellers are able to book directly with the authorized hotels and can reserve their mandatory three-night stay by calling the booking line at 1-800-294-8253 (toll-free within North America) or 1-613-830-2992.

Land crossings

Since Feb. 22, close to 176,000 travellers have been tested upon arriving in Canada, whether that's by land or air, according to PHAC.

Of those, 2,282 — 1.3 per cent — tested positive for COVID-19, the agency said. All travellers tested at the border were also screened for variants of concern using genetic sequencing.

Most people who drive into Canada are exempt from the requirement to quarantine, according to PHAC, many due to their role in trade or the movement of goods. They include, for example, truck drivers or critical infrastructure workers.

All arrivals at the land border crossings into Canada are required to provide a COVID-19 test from within the previous 72 hours, and are not required to quarantine at hotels.

Between March 2020 and April 2021 more than three times the number of travellers entering Canada were doing so by land (nine million) as opposed to by air (2.7 million), PHAC says.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Yvette Brend is a Vancouver journalist. Yvette.Brend@cbc.ca or on Twitter or Instagram @ybrend

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