When Natalia Pinzón boarded the flight for her trip to Toronto in March to start a first-year college program in the city, she was fully aware of Canada’s new quarantine rules that require incoming, international travellers to spend up to three days at a designated airport hotel while waiting for coronavirus test results.
What the 19-year-old Colombian woman said she didn’t realize until arriving at the hotel was that she would be charged more than four times the price she had been quoted in writing before boarding the airplane.
“I was expecting to pay $80 a night, but the quarantine package cost $360 a night,” Pinzón told Global News in an interview.
She said she and a family member were upfront when making the booking, explaining she was coming from outside the country and would need to pay the price applicable to incoming travellers under the new rules.
But when the take-it-or-leave-it pricing proposition was put forward by the airport hotel when she checked in after travelling 20 hours from South America, Pinzón said she had no choice but accept it.
“I’m getting mad and stressed right now,” Pinzón said, reflecting on her experience.
It is similar to what other travellers have reported since the new quarantine policy took effect.
“I didn’t feel the price was justified, it was actually excessive,” said Suvit Yeung, a Canadian living and working in Europe until he flew home to Toronto in March for compassionate reasons.
“It was necessary that I provide care and support for a family member facing a critical illness.”
Yeung spoke with Global News while completing a mandatory 14-day quarantine at a family home in the Toronto area.
He said he was also charged multiple times more for the hotel stay compared to what the hotel in Montreal originally quoted him.
The higher daily rate at government-approved hotels is intended to cover lodging, meals, extra security, transportation and additional cleaning.
However, Yeung said except for food, he didn’t receive any other special benefits or services.
“There wasn’t deep cleaning, there wasn’t even hand sanitizer at the hotel where I stayed,” he said, adding the hotel had no additional security and he had to pay for his own taxi to the hotel from the airport terminal.
Both Yeung and Pinzón received negative COVID-19 test results within about 12 hours of their arrival. Once they had received clearances by email, they no longer were required by law to remain at their hotels.
However, under the rules, they were still forced to pay for three nights’ accommodation: hotels are not providing refunds.
“Why do I have to pay for three days when I’m negative? It doesn’t make sense,” Pinzón said.
Since she was obligated to pay anyway, she said she spent three nights at the hotel, as did Yeung, who had previously arranged a connecting flight to Toronto based on staying three nights.
The hotel quarantine requirement was considered long overdue by many Canadians who considered incoming travel too easy and too risky in a pandemic.
Now, incoming travellers to Canada must show a negative COVID-19 test before boarding a flight to Canada, then test negative before leaving the airport quarantine, and finally test negative again prior to going out in public at the end of a 14-day quarantine.
“I think it’s important for people to understand that no one wants to travel unnecessarily in a pandemic,” Yeung said.
Canada’s quarantine rules may be misunderstood by American travellers who watch Fox News based on the recent comments of primetime host Tucker Carlson.
“Canada took a dramatic move toward legitimately dangerous authoritarianism,” Carlson intoned, warning the Fox News audience.
He went on to describe the mandatory hotel requirement, designed to limit the spread of coronavirus, as a form of internment.
“We assume that interning people is what Russia does, boring people is what Canada does. Suddenly, Canada is a flagrant violator of the most basic human rights,” Carlson concluded after incorrectly arguing that travellers would be placed in government facilities, not hotels.
While many travellers said they overpaid for their stays, got delivered sub-standard food and less-than-ideal service, no one claimed their hotels felt like a prison.
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