No messaging about 14-day isolation, say travellers home from U.S.

As top health officials warn Canadians who've been outside the country to self-isolate for 14 days, some travellers who touched down Sunday at the Ottawa International Airport said they didn't get any direction from airport officials.

Federal health officials said Sunday anyone returning from abroad should self-isolate

Marion Metcalfe, left, arrived at the Ottawa International Airport on March 15, 2020, from the U.S. with her husband and grandson. They said they didn't receive any additional screening, nor were they told to self-isolate. (CBC)


  • New messages are being added to border touch screens, the CBSA said Monday.

As top health officials warn Canadians who've been outside the country to self-isolate for 14 days, some who touched down Sunday at the Ottawa International Airport said they didn't receive any directions to do so.

Travellers arriving from Philadelphia and Tampa, Fla., told CBC they were asked on a computer screen if they had recently been to hotspots in China, Italy or Iran.

However, there were no questions about recent travel to the U.S., where confirmed cases of COVID-19 continue to rise.

Marion Metcalfe arrived on a flight from Philadelphia with her husband and grandson, and she said they didn't receive any additional screening.

"They didn't even tell us here to isolate ... nobody's mentioned it to us," said Metcalfe, who cut her trip to Myrtle Beach, S.C., short — in part because her husband has Parkinson's disease and they didn't want to get stuck there.

"We're back, and we just hope we didn't get sick."

Some travellers told CBC there were no announcements on their flights about self-isolation, and they were not greeted by any officials upon landing. 

Ann Hamilton arrived in Ottawa from Florida on March 15, 2020, and said she was 'grateful' to be home. (CBC)

"[There was] absolutely nothing, [just] the same screening that I experienced in all my other flights from the states," said Ann Hamilton, who arrived home in Ottawa after a trip to Clearwater Beach, Fla. 

However, travellers did tell CBC they planned to self-isolate, despite the lack of messaging.

"The government is saying, you know, if you come back from the United States you should self-isolate for 14 days. So I intend to," said Maureen Boyd who arrived from Tampa.

Government 'ramping up' messaging

Chief Public Health Officer of Canada Dr. Theresa Tam said the plan is to boost communication about the self-isolation period in the coming days.

"We're rapidly ramping up the communication on that front ... We will be making sure we have those messages out at all points of entry," said Dr. Tam.

Tam also said questions about which specific countries people visited — in particular, China, Iran and South Korean —may soon become irrelevant.

"[We're] no longer just focusing on these three areas [but] actually focusing on all travellers from outside of Canada," she said.

Monday, the federal government said a new message on its border touch screens making people confirm they know they're supposed to self-isolate.

The Ottawa International Airport Authority referred any questions about screening procedures at the airport to federal authorities.


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