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Ottawa lays out criteria for quarantine hotels as it inches toward new travel rule

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Ottawa lays out criteria for quarantine hotels as it inches toward new travel rule

OTTAWA — The Public Health Agency of Canada has listed its criteria for hotels seeking to participate in the mandatory three-day quarantine for returning travellers.

The conditions posted online put the government one step closer to fulfilling its late-January pledge that all passengers returning from non-essential trips abroad will have to self-isolate in a federally mandated facility for up to 72 hours at their own expense.

Hoteliers say the criteria seem reasonable, but doubt the quarantine rule will deliver a significant boost in business to the hammered hospitality sector.

The government has not said when the measure, which aims to head off COVID-19 cases and contagious variants of the novel coronavirus at the border, will come into effect.

To qualify as a “listed hotel,” lodgings must be near one of the four airports currently accepting international flights — in Montreal, Toronto, Calgary and Vancouver.

They must provide transportation from the airport, free wireless internet access and no-contact meal delivery to rooms, according to the public health agency.

Hotels would also have to set up a process for brief outdoor breaks and report daily check-in and checkout numbers, as well as non-compliant guests to the agency. That means monitoring traveller movement within the building, it says.

Hotel submissions are due on Wednesday, three days after the criteria appear to have been posted online.

Hotel operators question whether the slow-moving quarantine order will do much for the collapsed industry.

“I don’t think this is going to boost anything,” said Eve Paré, who heads the Hotel Association of Greater Montreal.

“There’ll be very few travellers.”

Association members have lost $700 million in room revenue and laid off 90 per cent of their staff, she said.

“It’s been a disaster since the very beginning of the pandemic.”

She added that the health agency’s criteria seem easy to meet for hotels that lie within the requisite 10-kilometre radius of the airport.

“What they ask, it’s pretty much what’s already there,” she said, referring to stipulations from ventilation to laundry to cleaning protocols. Hotels that have all but shut down will have to rehire cooks or order food from off-site, she noted.

The need to quarantine in a hotel is one of a series of federal measures targeting international travel in the past month.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced on Jan. 29 that Canadian airlines had suspended flights to Mexico and the Caribbean until April 30, and that hotel isolation was en route.

As of Jan. 7, residents who choose to fly abroad have had to provide proof of negative results for a COVID-19 test taken less than 72 hours before departure back to home soil.

The upcoming quarantine rule has faced resistance from civil liberties advocates concerned about its impact on mobility rights.

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association said Monday it might unfairly impact Canadians — particularly lower-income travellers — who need to care for sick relatives or receive specialized medical care abroad.

In a letter to the federal transport minister and attorney general, the association demanded Ottawa carve out quarantine exemptions and fee waivers for certain situations.

Christopher Reynolds, The Canadian Press

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