Province to allow exceptions to hotel self-isolation requirement
Travellers can stay at a private residence with government approval
New Brunswick is easing self-isolation rules a little over a week after requiring all non-essential travellers to quarantine at a designated hotel.
All leisure travellers, business travellers, and people moving had to self-isolate at a hotel for at least seven days. The stay costs about $1,300 and is managed by the Canadian Red Cross.
But now the province is allowing exemptions for people to self-isolate in a stand-alone residence.
Public Health announced the change in a news release on Saturday and said it will be determined on a case-by-case basis.
The province said travellers can see if they qualify by emailing TravelRegistration.EnregistrementVoyage@gnb.ca
It's unclear who is eligible to self-isolate outside of a hotel.
The Department of Justice and Public Safety, which oversees isolation rules, would not offer specifics on what circumstances would permit someone to isolate at a home or private residence.
Spokesperson Elaine Bell directed questions about the changes to the Canadian Red Cross, which couldn't be reached for comment.
"We will examine situations that could create undue hardship on a case-by-case basis," she said in an email.
Compliance checks will be conducted for travellers approved to stay at an alternative location. If a traveller is found breaking the rules, the province said they will be moving to a designated isolation hotel.
People not properly self-isolating can also face a maximum fine of up to $20,400.
Truck drivers, rotational workers and regular cross-border commuters are currently exempt from the hotel requirement.
Students returning to New Brunswick from Atlantic Canada, except Halifax, must self-isolate but can do so at a private residence.
Travellers are asked to register with the province. After receiving approval, they can book a hotel stay through the Red Cross by calling 1-800-863-6582.
Green Party Leader David Coon said the change to allow exemptions is welcome news. He's been hearing from people in situations where staying at a hotel would be challenging.
"No one had the sense of the tremendously varied circumstances people have coming into New Brunswick or home to New Brunswick," he said. "It's extraordinary just looking at the calls and emails I've had."
'A huge relief'
The new rules created confusion for students and those moving to New Brunswick after it was rolled out last week. Many travellers reported challenges booking a stay and some hotels dropped out of the program.
Bruno Pondant had travelled to attend his father's funeral in Belgium when the changes began.
The Moncton resident stayed at a federal quarantine hotel in Montreal with his wife. After receiving a negative COVID-19 test, they tried to reserve a flight home.
But there was a problem. The region's only designated quarantine hotel — the Hyatt Place Moncton — was completely booked by self-isolating travellers.
"We were stuck in Montreal not knowing exactly when we would be able to go back home," Pondant told Radio-Canada.
The couple was able to make a reservation later that week and flew back to New Brunswick. But after arriving at the Moncton airport on Wednesday, a peace officer informed them the rules had changed, according to Pondant.
"We still had to do a quarantine for 14 days, but we were able to do it at home," he said. "So that was a huge relief."
Hotel reservations cancelled
Best Western Plus in Bathurst is starting to receive a wave of cancellations following the change.
General Manager Annie Doucet said several people who had purchased homes in the region were self-isolating at the hotel.
"Five days later they called them and said, 'You can go to your house,'" she said in French. "The line was crazy all week for booking reservations."
But now, the hotel is starting to take cancellations for all those bookings. All six travellers expected to arrive for self-isolation on Saturday cancelled their reservations.
Doucet said it's frustrating to have the rules change just days after being named a designated hotel. The hotel had to free up rooms on an entire floor for seven-days stays.
"Now I'm left with 20 rooms that were guaranteed, not rented," she said.
Trying to leave hotel
A couple moving to New Brunswick had already spent five days inside the Hilton in Saint John after relocating from New York.
Gil Steeves and her husband, Ian Gordon, faced a frustrating situation entering Steeves's home province. They were hours away from crossing the border from Maine when the hotel requirement was announced.
Guests isolating in a hotel have to get a COVID test on Day 5 of their stay. If the results come back negative they can leave on Day 7 and finish isolation somewhere else.
Steeves and Gordon have been tested and are hoping to leave the hotel and finish isolating at a vacant home owned by family in Moncton.
But the hotel stay was not part of their original itinerary. Now they're scrambling to update their quarantine plan with the Public Health Agency of Canada so they can leave the Hilton.
"This is just a really complex situation where the story has shifted to not being able to reach the federal government," Steeves said.
With files from Radio-Canada, Gary Moore