The Conservative Party is calling for the federal government’s expert advisory panel to give updated advice on Canada’s border restrictions and for clear assurances that basic necessities, like diapers, will be provided to quarantined travellers.
On Tuesday, Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos acknowledged conditions in some of the government-run quarantine facilities were “totally unacceptable” and he directed the Public Health Agency of Canada to ensure that service standards are met. But the federal government is also defending its tightened border rules, which were introduced in the past two weeks, in the wake of the new Omicron variant of COVID-19.
The rules include a ban on foreign nationals from 10 countries in Africa. Fully vaccinated Canadians and permanent residents returning from those countries must be tested on arrival and quarantine in a designated facility until they get their negative test result. But travellers say they have been left to wait in quarantine days after receiving a negative test result and have been held in unsanitary conditions.
And the government has not yet provided the date for the full implementation of another rule that requires that all fully vaccinated air travellers, arriving from outside of the U.S. and the 10 banned African countries, be tested on arrival and isolate at home until they get a negative test result.
In a statement Thursday, Conservative MPs Raquel Dancho, Luc Berthold and Melissa Lantsman also call for “clearly communicated guidelines” for entering and leaving the quarantine hotels and for the government to ensure travellers can “immediately leave” if they receive a negative result from their arrival COVID-19 test.
Ms. Dancho, Mr. Berthold and Ms. Lantsman are also calling for the government to outline the metrics it will follow to decide when to end the heightened travel and quarantine restrictions. The government has said the ban on foreign nationals from the 10 African countries will be in place until Jan. 31.
“Despite having months to deal with these quarantine hotels, the Trudeau government is still subjecting travellers to an unacceptable, unsafe environment, where the rules for exiting are unclear,” the MPs said. They added the government has failed to “provide safe conditions” for people who are required to enter quarantine hotels.
The Conservatives say the government’s COVID-19 Testing and Screening Expert Advisory Panel should “immediately review” its May recommendations on testing and quarantining at the border, and provide updated advice where warranted. The federal government never fully implemented the May advice from the panel and, in November, Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam suggested the advice was now dated.
When the new travel rules were first announced, the Conservatives largely supported the changes. On Nov. 26 the party called for the government to immediately ban non-essential travel to and from several African countries. And regardless of vaccination status, it also called for mandatory screening and quarantining of travellers from the affected countries.
In Question Period on Wednesday, Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-François Blanchet criticized the government for rolling out a complex set of rules that vary between regions.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau agreed that the rules are complicated but he said they’re warranted given the pandemic and the emergence of the Omicron variant.
“It seems to me that it’s not too complicated to understand that everyone who has a trip is going to have to prepare,” Mr. Trudeau said.
“Yes, it can be complicated. However, we must be there to protect Canadians from the Omicron variant and COVID-19, and we will make the choices accordingly, to protect the vast majority of Canadians who stay at home and want COVID-19 to end.”
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