Woman returning to Canada from Nigeria says 'grim things' happened during mandatory hotel quarantine

·3 min read
Mary Ellen Havlik spent three days in a quarantine hotel after returning by air to Canada from a work trip to Nigeria, one of the countries the federal government has placed additional restrictions on due to the COVID-19 omicron variant. (Jacob Barker/CBC - image credit)
Mary Ellen Havlik spent three days in a quarantine hotel after returning by air to Canada from a work trip to Nigeria, one of the countries the federal government has placed additional restrictions on due to the COVID-19 omicron variant. (Jacob Barker/CBC - image credit)

A Kingsville, Ont., woman is frustrated with the federal government's planning around Canadian travellers returning home from African countries to deal with concerns over the new COVID-19 variant.

Mary Ellen Havlik, who returned Friday from a work trip to Nigeria, accused Ottawa of having a "knee-jerk reaction" to the omicron variant.

At the end of November, the government placed additional restrictions on Canadians returning from certain African countries. Days later, before Havlik was set to return, Nigeria was added to that list.

Under the new measures, Canadians who return home after travelling by air to any of the 10 African countries are required to show proof of a negative molecular (PCR) test and quarantine for 14 days. They must also undergo testing on arrival at the airport and get another test on Day 8 of their quarantine.

Travellers must wait for the results of the arrival test at a designated hotel. If they're negative, they can be released from the hotel to quarantine for the remaining days at home.

But Havlik, who flight landed at Toronto's Pearson International Airport, says the process didn't run smoothly. She claims she and other travellers were "mistreated."

Food thrown out windows in 'protest'

"There were some pretty grim things that were happening there. I had a lady next door to me who had surgery and she didn't have any pain medication, and she told Red Cross and she went two days without pain medication," she told CBC Radio's Windsor Morning host, Tony Doucette, on Tuesday.

Havlik said she joined a WhatsApp group with people on her floor who shared these stories.

Jacob Barker/CBC
Jacob Barker/CBC

"There were a family of four travellers and the two toddlers ran out of diapers. They called Red Cross. There were no diapers provided for them."

CBC News reached out to the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC), but a spokesperson declined a request for an interview.

The spokesperson said the agency does not comment on specific travellers' cases.

LISTEN | Havlik speaks to Windsor Morning about her aggravating return to Canada from Nigeria.

Havlik also said she wasn't given a key card to the room and was told to stay inside, except if she wanted to do a wellness walk outdoors. She said she was given a phone number for the Red Cross and told they would assist with anything she needed.

But Havlik said the phone line was so overwhelmed that she couldn't get through.

She said the food was "less than acceptable" and "some people were so upset, they started throwing their food out of the windows in protest."

Submitted by Mary Ellen Havlik
Submitted by Mary Ellen Havlik

Havlik isn't the only one who has complained about their travel experiences amid the new variant. On Sunday, the government tweaked the new measures for those arriving from South Africa in response to some complaints.

'Poor planning'

On Saturday, Havlik said she got back her negative PCR test result and was told she would hear back from a Public Health Agency of Canada quarantine officer. It took nearly two days for her to get clearance from the officer so she could get on her flight back to Windsor.

In total, she was in the quarantine hotel for three days.

Havlik said she's "very happy" to be home.

"I just think it's poor planning," she said, adding it didn't seem there were enough staff available for support, nor did they seem properly trained.

"I know this has been a very challenging situation to navigate, however it's been almost two years that we've been faced with this ... at the time the omicron variant was identified and the Canadian government put this plan in place it felt very ill conceived."

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