Ottawa travellers unenthusiastic as reports say feds are set to end remaining COVID-19 travel rules

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The ArriveCan app has been mandatory since November 2020, forcing travelers first to disclose their COVID-19 symptoms and then asking them as of last year to enter their vaccination status into the app.

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Travelers in the Ottawa area appear unimpressed by reports that the federal government is preparing to drop remaining COVID-19 travel regulations — including requiring use of the ArriveCAN app and proof of vaccination — for arriving passengers, saying the restrictions aren’t too onerous, but can be confusing. The effects on public health are questionable.

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Several media outlets reported Wednesday night that the Federalist Liberals were preparing to drop the app’s use requirement. The National Post reports the final decision on the application, Besides other epidemic limits and travel restrictions, It may come as early as Thursday, according to an unnamed government source.

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Lauren Elliott and Marcus Colback, who were at Ottawa airport on Wednesday with their two children waiting for a flight to Vietnam, said they had mixed feelings about the possible end of COVID-19 travel regulations.

They and their children, Tafish, 9, and Kian, 6, were vaccinated. Elliott said uploading this information to the ArriveCAN app is not difficult.

“It wouldn’t be a big deal for us, but maybe not for older people who aren’t tech-savvy,” she said.

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The Access The app has been mandatory since November 2020, first forcing travelers to disclose their COVID-19 symptoms, and as of last year requiring them to enter their vaccination status into the app.

While domestic travelers have been able to fly without proof of vaccination since June, international arrivals must still show proof of vaccination.

From left, mother Lauren Elliott, children Tavis, 9, Kian, 6, and father Marcus Kolback were at Ottawa Airport, waiting for a flight to Vietnam for a family vacation.
From left, mother Lauren Elliott, children Tavis, 9, Kian, 6, and father Marcus Kolback were at Ottawa Airport, waiting for a flight to Vietnam for a family vacation.

Both Elliott and Colpac said they are not clear about whether the travel rules have helped improve the COVID-19 situation.

The regulations also include random COVID-19 testing for returning travelers and a 14-day isolation requirement for some unvaccinated people entering Canada.

“If it can be shown to have an effect on public health, I agree with it,” Kolback said.

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“Does it affect anything? Is there a positive public health outcome? It’s not a huge inconvenience, but if it isn’t helpful, why do we do it?”

He said current travel isolation rules also throw a big clue to his sister’s Christmas visit plans with her three children. They are from Australia and plan to come to Ottawa for five weeks.

However, none of his sister’s children — ages 9, 12 and 13 — were vaccinated because their father wouldn’t allow it, Kolback said.

“Are they going to have to quarantine for 14 days? They can’t go out and play in the snow? They’ve never seen snow before.”

Emma Neal, a doctoral student in Carleton University’s School of Public Policy and Administration with experience in air transport policy, said abandoning the vaccine requirement for incoming travelers was something airlines were pushing for.

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“The airlines were losing revenue throughout the pandemic because no one was traveling,” she said.

“Removing these restrictions makes it easier for people to travel a little bit and will increase the demand for travel, so it will benefit the airlines.”

But Neal was skeptical that eliminating mandatory use of the ArriveCAN app and restrictions on non-vaccinated travelers would reduce delays within airports like those seen during the summer.

“I really think that getting rid of that requirement, it’s not going to make anything easier,” she said. “It will increase the demand for travel, so more travelers will come to Canada. We will see more delays if things are not fixed properly and then on top of that we are likely to see more health issues as well because we don’t seem to be doing well. COVID now.”

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Tracy and Chris Margates, who live in Wales but have been visiting Canada for three months with two children Harley, 14, and Sammy, 13, said they would follow any of the COVID-19 travel rules imposed by the Canadian government.

They said the ArriveCAN app was easy to use. It takes 10 minutes to fill out this application,” Chris said. “If it keeps everyone safe and stops the epidemic from coming back, there is no problem.”

Ahead, left: Dad Chris Margates, mom Tracy Margates with their children Sammy, 13, left, and Harley, 14, at Ottawa Airport waiting for a flight to New York City.
Ahead, left: Dad Chris Margates, mom Tracy Margates with their children Sammy, 13, left, and Harley, 14, at Ottawa Airport waiting for a flight to New York City.

He said that many travel restrictions related to the pandemic in Great Britain had already been lifted. He said it appears that governments are trying to balance the benefits of public health restrictions with the need to allow people to travel and learn to live with the pandemic.

Tracy said the whole family has been vaccinated, so she’s not affected by the isolation rules. “This (vaccination) is a little tricky because it’s a personal choice.”

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“I don’t want the epidemic to get worse again, but maybe it’s time to loosen (travel restrictions),” she said.

“If I had to do a random test (the COVID-19 test) it wouldn’t bother me,” she said. “If only I had to pay! Then I would be a little crazy,” she laughed. (Random tests given to people entering Canada are free.)

The family was at Ottawa Airport on a plane to New York City where they planned to spend a few days before returning to Canada on their cross-country trip here.

A man who was dropping off his mother at Ottawa Airport on a flight to Chicago said the travel rules for COVID-19 should not be lifted yet.

“My wife works in a nursing home and the disease has broken out,” said the man, who said he preferred not to be named. “Thirteen out of 49 (residents of the nursing home) have coronavirus.”

The man says a lot of people have stopped taking precautions like wearing a mask.

People, they don’t wear masks or anything. For everyone, it looks like it’s over. But it’s still there.”

With files from the National Post

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