Ottawa

Returning Canadians reporting mixed messages at airports

Travellers returning to Canada from abroad are reporting mixed messaging at the border when it comes to COVID-19.

Some travellers say they're getting scant information about COVID-19 upon their return

Travellers arriving at the Ottawa airport gave different answers when asked how they were greeted upon arrival in Canada. Residents who first landed in Toronto said they weren’t given advice about self-quarantine measures and were asked only “superficial” questions. 1:21

Travellers returning to Canada from abroad are reporting mixed messaging at the border when it comes to COVID-19.

Some said they received handouts and were asked to sign declarations saying they would self-isolate, but others said they were given no instructions or information.

Pat Klus returned from Mexico and says she was asked to sign a declaration by border officers saying she would self-isolate for 14 days. (Sandra Abma/CBC)

Passengers at the Ottawa International Airport told CBC they received information from border officials as they returned to the country.

"I actually had to sign a little declaration when I come through customs saying I would self-isolate for two weeks," said Pat Klus, who was returning to Ottawa from Mexico on Monday.

Others who entered the country at Pearson International in Toronto described a much different experience.

Helen Azar was expecting to be asked more questions and to be tested for COVID-19 on her return from Portugal to Ottawa via Toronto. She says she received very little messaging, however, and was not told to self-isolate for 14 days. (Sandra Abma/CBC)

"It was very superficial, extremely superficial," said Helen Azar, who flew to Toronto from Portugal before heading to Ottawa.

Azar said she would have been willing to take a COVID-19 test at the border had one been offered.

Brittnee Kenney, a 19-year-old university student returning to Toronto from St. Louis, Mo., had a similar experience.

Brittnee Kenney returned from university in Missouri after her academic year and hockey season were forced to end due to the COVID-19 outbreak. She said she wasn't asked any questions when coming through customs. (Sandra Abma/CBC)

"No one talked to me, no one was at the door. The only thing that changes is there is hand sanitizer," Kenney said.

She was met at the airport by her grandfather, but couldn't give him a hug. She said she will be spending the next 14 days in self-isolation now that she's home.

Julia Saunders, Olivia Chouinard, Molly Saunders and Alexa Ignjatic cut their vacation to the Dominican Republic short. They say they were given information sheets with instructions from public health officials at Ottawa's airport. (Sandra Abma/CBC)

A group of friends who had to cut their vacation to the Dominican Republic short said they were warned by officials and at digital kiosks about the need to self-isolate when they arrived back to Canada.

Julia and Megan Saunders, Olivia Chouinard and Alexa Ignjatic said their parents reached out to tell them to return early.

"I have a COVID-19 disease slip and it tells you all the precautions you need to take," Chouinard said.

On Monday, the federal government announced that all international flights would soon be rerouted to airports in Toronto, Calgary, Vancouver and Montreal to allow for increased monitoring of passengers. 

Echoing earlier advice from health and government officials, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau urged Canadians abroad to come home as soon as possible, and warned they could be denied entry if they're showing symptoms of COVID-19.

with files from Sandra Abma

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