If the Canadian government’s plan was to keep people home by introducing strict travel and quarantine restrictions, then their plan is working.
According to weekly statistics posted by the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA), international air travel during the COVID-19 pandemic is less than a tenth of what it was before the crisis hit.
In the last two weeks of January, the CBSA reports that international arrivals dropped to 106,000 people, and in the first two weeks of February, the number fell further to 94,000.
There was a small blip in international travel after Christmas, with almost 170,000 people arriving in Canada between Dec. 28 and Jan. 10. Comparatively, there were 128,000 arrivals between Dec. 14 and Dec. 27.
The drop in international arrivals in early February is about four times the decline seen between early January and early February in 2019 and 2020.
Bookings began to drop dramatically after Ottawa, on Jan. 7, made it mandatory for all international arrivals to show a negative PCR test, taken within 72 hours, prior to boarding their flight to Canada.
That pre-flight requirement alone resulted in some 50,000 cancelled flight reservations in January, according to information CBC obtained from Transport Canada at the time.
Additionally, Canada’s tightening of travel rules last month has further discouraged those who had planned to travel for non-essential reasons.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, for one, announcing that Air Canada, WestJet, Sunwing and Transat would be suspending operations to the Caribbean and Mexico until April 30, 2021, put possible travel on pause.
Then, since Feb. 22, international air travellers have had to quarantine in government-authorized hotels, at their own expense, for up to three days while awaiting results of a PCR test they receive upon landing.
The hotel program has been flawed with logistical, ethical and legal problems as travellers, who can only book their quarantine stay by phone, face long wait times and added expenses.
While the hotel quarantine has received a lot of bad press – enough to discourage anyone who was even considering travelling abroad – the CBSA’s data doesn’t yet reflect what impact the protocol has had on arrivals in Canada as Ottawa didn’t officially confirm the details until Feb. 12.
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