Montreal

Quebec wants travellers returning from holidays abroad to test negative for COVID-19 before boarding planes

Health Minister Christian Dubé says he has been shocked by the behaviour of some Quebecers vacationing in the south during the holiday break. He is asking the federal government to implement COVID testing at airports of departure, upon arrival and also to put more resources into enforcing strict quarantine measures here.

Health Minister Christian Dubé doesn't want a repeat of the spring break, which led to a surge in cases

Travel over the holidays was not recommended, but thousands still headed to airports to leave Quebec during the holiday break. (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press)

Travellers planning to return home to Quebec after holidaying abroad should face strict measures, including being tested for COVID-19 before hopping on a flight home and once again upon their arrival, the provincial health minister announced today.

This comes after Quebec recorded 2,381 new cases on Tuesday, along with 64 new deaths.

Saying the situation in Quebec hospitals is "critical," particularly in the Montreal area, Christian Dubé announced he is asking the federal government for a series of measures to prevent travellers from spreading COVID-19 after returning to Quebec. They include:

  • People returning to Quebec should be tested for COVID-19 before boarding their flight and not be allowed on a plane if they test positive for the virus.

  • Travellers should be subjected to rapid testing upon their arrival at international airports, such as Jean Lesage in Quebec City and Pierre Elliott Trudeau in Montreal. 

  • Dubé has also asked the federal government to tighten the enforcement of quarantine measures for travellers who have returned.

Dubé said Quebec and Ottawa "agree on these measures," but that they are in negotiation about a timeline for implementing them. 

"If it was up to me, we would do it as of tomorrow morning," the health minister said. "But we are in discussion with the federal government and we will continue those discussions over the next few hours."

WATCH | Why Quebec's health minister wants Ottawa to apply stricter rules for travellers:

'We're not going in the right direction,' says Dubé

CBC News Montreal

5 months ago
1:21
Quebec Health Minister Christian Dubé is asking the federal government to ramp up measures for travelers returning to Canada. 1:21

Dubé said the new rules are necessary to avoid the surge in cases that occurred last spring in Quebec, where spring-break travellers brought the coronavirus home from abroad and Quebec experienced the worst caseloads in the country.

"The images we've seen of travellers down south are shocking for everybody, especially for those following the rules and the health-care workers," Dubé said. "We have to remember what's happening here."

Dubé was referring to photos on social media of maskless Quebecers dining out, dancing and drinking in close proximity to other people at resorts.

Last Thursday, the Institut national d'excellence en santé et services sociaux (INESSS) published projections about hospital needs, indicating that Quebec hospitals could run out of beds by mid-January.

 "We will go beyond our capacity and half of the designated beds are already taken up," Dubé said. "We have to remember why we are making these sacrifices." 

The risks of travel

Dubé warned the costs of contracting COVID-19 while abroad — or of breaking rules here — could be very steep.

He said Quebecers who test positive for COVID-19 at a foreign airport will have to find hotels to stay in and pay the cost themselves before they can return home.

WATCH | Quebec wants Ottawa's help cracking down on holiday travellers:

Quebec wants Ottawa’s help cracking down on holiday travellers

The National

5 months ago
1:57
Even with holiday travel down drastically compared with last year, health officials in Quebec are worried about returning Christmas vacationers bringing COVID-19 back with them. The province is asking Ottawa for help setting up screening and testing programs at airports, as well as to crack down on those supposed to be in quarantine. 1:57

He also said Quebec has no intention of going beyond standard reimbursement for health care abroad, and that travellers will have to hope their private travel insurance covers any hospitalization or medical care because RAMQ coverage is "minimal."

The health minister also reminded Quebecers that the fines for disobeying quarantine rules once back in Canada range from $800 to $750,000.

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