Mandatory hotel quarantine rates far lower than $2,000 touted by government

·3 min read

MONTREAL — The cost of the mandatory three-day hotel quarantine that goes into effect on Monday appears to be well below the $2,000-per-person price tag cited by officials when they announced the new program.

Nightly rates at the Alt Hotel Toronto Airport and the Sheraton Gateway Hotel at Toronto Pearson International Airport, two of the hotels named Friday as participants in the government quarantine program, start at $339 and $319, respectively, for a single person being quarantined, employees answering the phone at those hotels said.

Those rates include all costs associated with the quarantine, including food and security, the employees said.

At the Calgary Airport Marriott In-Terminal Hotel, the three-day quarantine stay for one person costs $1,272 plus tax, including food for three days and $75 for security, an employee who answered the phone said.

“The hotels are doing the billing directly and different hotels will have different rates,” Health Minister Patty Hajdu said Friday. “The hotels are setting the price based on their own deliberations on their own expenses.”

The federal government released a list Friday of 11 approved hotels in the four cities where international flights are permitted to land.

On Jan. 29, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that all travellers entering Canada by air would have to quarantine in a hotel for three days at their own expense, saying the cost would exceed $2,000 per person.

At a press conference on Friday, Trudeau addressed issues travellers have had with reaching the phone line the Canadian government set up for them to make reservations at the designated quarantine hotels.

“Our officials are working very hard to ensure that quarantine system is in place by Monday, and we will be able to communicate with Canadians with regard to instructions on how to comply with those measures,” Trudeau said.

Multiple calls to the same phone line by The Canadian Press went unanswered Friday morning.

A Canadian government web page listing the government-authorized hotels says that the price of the three-night stay includes costs associated with food, room, infection and control measures, security and transportation.

Many Canadians abroad made plans to return home before the hotel quarantine requirement goes into effect on Feb. 22, said Martin Firestone, a travel insurance broker and president of Travel Secure Inc.

Other clients of Firestone's have extended their stays abroad or are planning to drive across a land border to avoid the hotel quarantine, he said.

"None of them are planning on doing the hotel quarantine," Firestone said.

Some exemptions apply to the hotel quarantine requirement. Seasonal agricultural workers are exempt until March 14, 2021, and patients receiving essential medical treatment abroad are not subject to the mandate.

Rights groups, including the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, have criticized the hotel quarantine policy, saying that the cost could be prohibitive for lower-income Canadians and infringe on citizens' mobility rights.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 19, 2021.

Jon Victor, The Canadian Press