Tag Archives: quarantine

U.S. taxi services see business boost helping Canadians avoid hotel quarantine

Airport transport service, Buffalo Limousine, lost about 70 per cent of its business during COVID-19 pandemic. But the company said its luck changed recently, thanks to Canadian snowbirds returning from U.S. sunbelt states who want to avoid Canada’s hotel quarantine requirement. 

“This is a huge, huge shot in the arm for us, this Canadian snowbird travel,” said Carla Boccio, owner of Buffalo Limousine. “It’s a godsend.”

Since February 22, air passengers entering Canada have been required to quarantine for up to three days in a designated hotel and pay for the cost — up to $ 2,000. However, travellers entering by land are exempt from the rule. 

To avoid the hotel quarantine, some snowbirds are flying to U.S. cities close to the Canadian border — such as Buffalo, N.Y. — and then hiring a ground transport service — such as Buffalo Limousine — to drive them across the Canadian border.

“When Canada imposed that hotel [quarantine], then it was just like our phones were exploding,” said Boccio. “What I hear from the majority of these people, it’s not even so much the cost, it’s like you’re in jail … with this hotel quarantine.”


A new post on Buffalo Limousine’s website informs Canadian travellers that it will drive them from Buffalo, N.Y., across the Canadian border. (Buffalo Limousine)

CBC News interviewed three airport transport services based in Buffalo and one in Burlington, Vt., which is about 70 kilometres from the Quebec border. The companies said they’ll drive Canadians to or across the Canadian border for around $ 100 US and, for an added fee, the Buffalo companies will drive passengers directly to their homes in Ontario. 

Each company said it has seen a boost in business after Canada introduced the hotel quarantine requirement.

Since late February, Buffalo Limousine has, on average, transported 50 customers a day across the Canadian border, increasing its lagging business by around 50 per cent, Boccio said. 

“I’m more thankful than I could even put into words.”

Buffalo Limousine charges about $ 120 US to drive a couple from the Buffalo airport across the border to neighbouring Fort Erie, Ont., or Niagara Falls, said Boccio. A trip to downtown Toronto costs around $ 300 US.

Crossing by land has different rules

The federal government surprised snowbirds abroad when it changed the travel rules on Feb. 22, requiring air passengers entering Canada to take a COVID-19 test upon arrival, and spend up to three days of their 14-day quarantine in a hotel to await the test results.

Ottawa introduced the hotel quarantine requirement to discourage international travel and help stop the spread of COVID-19 infections, which are surging due to more contagious variants

But travellers entering Canada by land face no hotel quarantine requirement. Instead, they must quarantine at home for 14 days and take multiple COVID-19 tests, including one in the U.S. within 72 hours of arrival at the Canadian border. 

According to Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) data, land entries into Canada jumped by 15 per cent during the first three weeks of March, compared to the same period in February (when the hotel quarantine rules were not yet in effect). Those entries include both leisure travellers and essential workers who aren’t truck drivers.

WATCH | Quarantine hotels problems include access to food, travellers say

Some Canadians who’ve had to stay at a mandatory quarantine hotel say they’ve been met with long delays, crowded waiting areas and issues accessing basic needs like food. 2:07

To avoid the hotel quarantine requirement, snowbird Jaroslaw Stanczuk said when he returns home from Florida later this month, he will fly to Buffalo, and take a taxi across the border to his home in Fort Erie, Ont. 

Stanczuk, who got the COVID-19 vaccine in Florida, said he’s taking the necessary safety precautions during the pandemic and feels the hotel quarantine is a needless step. 

“You want me to get a COVID-19 test? I’m happy with that. You want me to get one when I arrive? I’m happy with that. But why punish me with three days of quarantine in a hotel?” 


Canadian snowbird Jaroslaw Stanczuk said he plans to fly to Buffalo when he returns to Canada from Florida and then take a taxi across the Canadian border. (submitted by Jaroslaw Stanczuk)

Other snowbirds are also travelling by cab. Since the hotel quarantine rule took effect, Buffalo Airport Taxi said it has driven, on average, 20 to 30 customers a day across the Canadian border, increasing its business by at least 50 per cent.

“They want to go home. They don’t want to go to quarantine prison,” said Buffalo Airport Taxi manager, Saleman Alwhishah. “It boosted our business tremendously.”

Why can U.S. drivers cross the border?

John Arnet, general manager of 716 Limousine in Buffalo, said he’s been inundated with requests for transport across the Canadian land border and questions about the rules for entering Canada during the Canada-U.S. land border closure to non-essential traffic.

“Most of the questions are … ‘Can you take us across the border?'” said Arnet. “Yes, we can take you across the border. We’re an essential service.”

CBSA said that foreign transport workers such as taxi and bus drivers can enter Canada during the border closure, if they establish they’re employed as a driver and are performing a service related to their job. 

CBC News asked the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) for comment about Canadians travelling home by land to avoid the hotel quarantine requirement. The agency did not provide a direct response. Instead, it listed the types of fines and other penalties Canadians can face if they violate quarantine rules. 

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CBC | Health News

Hockey players returning from leagues overseas want exemption from Canada’s quarantine rules

Playing professional hockey in Switzerland is no holiday for Daniel Winnik.

That’s why Winnik, who plays for Genève-Servette HC of the Swiss National League, has signed a petition asking that Canadian professional hockey players returning home from overseas be placed on the COVID-19 essential travelers list and be exempt from a mandatory three-day hotel quarantine.

“I know there’s a bunch of ‘Snowbirds’ who go to Florida and southern places to get away from winter,” Winnik, a Toronto native who spent 11 seasons in the NHL, said from Geneva. “We’ve got guys that come over here to work. Obviously, all of us would love to be playing in North American in the NHL or AHL but the reality is we couldn’t get jobs there.

“We came overseas to be able to provide for our families. We’re not here on vacation. We’re making a living for our families.”

In February, the federal government introduced measures that call for most air passengers to take a COVID-19 test after landing in Canada and spend up to three days of their 14-day quarantine period in a designated hotel to await their test results. The hotel stay could cost up to $ 2,000.

Maxim Noreau, a Montreal native who plays defence for the ZSC Lions in Zurich, estimates the mandatory hotel quarantine will cost around $ 4,000 for him, his wife and two sons.

“We are all here overseas trying to earn income to supply for our families and coming back to Canada is a big stress for us, especially with my two little boys,” Noreau said in an email.


Maxim Noreau (56) won a bronze medal with Team Canada at the Pyeongchang Olympics in 2018. (Getty Images)

“Coming back to Canada is a safe haven for us and we 100 per cent want to quarantine in our own home for 14 days as we would expect everyone else to do the same without bias.”

The petition, on Change.org, says Canadians playing hockey overseas are there “for their livelihood” and “putting these individuals and their families into the same category as travellers/vacationers would be unfair.”

The petition’s goal is 10,000 signatures. So far over 7,800 people have signed.

The Public Health Agency of Canada said in an email it is aware of the hockey players’ petition, but said the border measures are in place to prevent the introduction of new COVID-19 cases.

The government has issued exemptions to the mandatory 14-day quarantine period under national interest grounds for professional athletes, staff and third-party personnel “to support safe return-to-play when robust measures are in place to mitigate the risk of importation and spread of COVID-19 in Canada.

“These exemptions are not intended for professional athletes returning to Canada,” the agency said.

WATCH | Ottawa to ease restrictions for Olympic athletes:

CBC Sports’ Jamie Strashin joined CBC Morning Live host Heather Hiscox to discuss the Canadian government’s plans to offer Canadian athletes exemptions from some quarantine-related travel restrictions in the lead-up to the Olympics. 4:57

No difference between vacation, working

Anita Ho, an associate professor in bioethics and health services research at the University of British Columbia, said COVID-19 doesn’t discriminate.

“I don’t really see the [argument of] vacationing versus work destination,” she said. “COVID spreads among people. So, if you are in close proximity, whether it is through work, whether it’s through playing hockey or playing and vacationing, it makes no difference.”

Ho acknowledged the mandated hotel stay can impose a financial hardship on some people.

“The government should make it as affordable as possible for people to do those three days,” she said.

Canadian Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault recently said the federal government has agreed to offer 750 Olympic and Paralympic athletes — along with members of their support staff — exemptions from some quarantine-related travel restrictions in the lead-up to the Olympics.

Ho understands the exemption for Olympic athletes who have lived in a bubble and have been routinely tested.

‘A lot of money’

“That’s why you can show their risk of being infected is very low,” she said.

Winnik was taken 265th overall in the 2004 NHL draft by the Phoenix Coyotes. A six-foot-two, 210-pound forward he would play 798 games — scoring 82 goals and 251 points — with eight teams, including the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Winnik has played the past two seasons with Genève-Servette, collecting 22 goals and 44 points in 49 games this year.

Winnik’s team is currently in the playoffs, but the season is over for many other Canadians who are looking to return home. The mandatory hotel stay adds another cost.

“It’s a lot of money,” Winnik said. “They’re asking people to pay to be able to return home to where they’re from.”

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CBC | Sports News

Patients receiving treatment abroad exempt from testing, quarantine rules

Patients who need medical treatment in another country will not have to follow new COVID-19 testing and quarantine rules required for those entering Canada.

Official regulations posted on the federal government website confirm that people receiving “essential medical services” in a foreign country will not have to undergo tests and mandatory quarantines if they have a written statement from a licensed health care practitioner in Canada — and from a practitioner in the country where they are receiving the treatment — affirming that the treatment is essential.

Proof of a negative polymerase chain reaction test — also known as a PCR test — is now required for non-essential travellers crossing into Canada via the land border. 

The test result must be obtained within 72 hours of arriving at the border but essential workers — such as truckers, emergency service providers and those in cross-border communities — are exempt.

After passing through the land border, travellers have to take another test upon arrival and a third test near the end of their 14-day quarantine periods.

That additional layer of testing comes into effect on Feb. 22 — the same day air passengers landing in Canada will be subjected to a new rule requiring them to quarantine in a hotel at their own expense for up to 72 hours while they wait for PCR test results.

The cost of those hotel stays is estimated at about $ 2,000, but it depends on where the traveller is isolating. Passengers will need to book a hotel in the city in which they first arrive: Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto or Montreal. 

Quarantine presents financial burden

Vancouver resident Kimberly Muise, who travels to Los Angeles every month to take part in an immunotherapy clinical trial to treat Stage 4 cervical cancer, told CBC Chief Political Correspondent Rosemary Barton on Sunday that a mandatory quarantine at the traveller’s expense would be a financial burden.

Reacting to confirmation of the exemptions in a government order-in-council (OIC), Muise said Tuesday she’s glad the government listened to Canadians’ concerns.

“This will make a huge difference in my life and the life of my family as I continue my battle with cancer,” she said in an email to CBC.

“I know that the inclusion of essential medical services and treatment in this OIC will also improve the lives of so many Canadians who require medical treatment outside of Canada and were similarly facing almost unbearable stress in dealing with their essential travel during the pandemic.” 

In an interview Sunday, Public Safety Minister Bill Blair had told Barton that there will be some leeway in determining what constitutes essential travel and that the government will deal appropriately with “compelling and compassionate cases,” such as people receiving medical treatment abroad.

Blair said Muise’s case had been brought to his attention already by her local member of Parliament and he was talking to the Public Health Agency of Canada and British Columbia’s health authority about her situation.

“We want to make sure that that woman can receive her treatment and put in measures that can protect her, protect her family and protect her community, but also deal with the exceptional circumstances that that woman is experiencing in an appropriate way,” he said.

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After blockbuster trade, ‘hectic’ quarantine, Pierre-Luc Dubois ready for his Jets’ debut

Over the weekend, Pierre-Luc Dubois emerged from a 14-day quarantine with his bulldogs Phillip and Georgia in a house provided by the Winnipeg Jets.

For two long weeks, Dubois immersed himself in game film provided by his new employer and worked out in his living room. In the morning, he savoured the coffee left on the front step by his mom and dad, who also live in the Manitoba capital.

“In a way, it’s been a slow two weeks because I haven’t done anything,” the 22-year-old said after his first practice Sunday with the Jets. “But in another way, it’s been a pretty crazy two weeks, with all the video, watching games, getting ready, meeting guys over text and FaceTime and Zoom, and stuff like that.

“It’s been a hectic, yet slow, two weeks.”

With the transition period over, it’s time for the 6-foot-2, 205-pound centre to author the next chapter of his hockey career on a Winnipeg club loaded with offensive prowess.

WATCH | Rob Pizzo takes a look at the blockbuster Jets-Blue Jackets trade:

Two disgruntled star forwards finally get their wish, and are heading out of town. 1:56

Main objectives

The Sainte-Agathe-des Monts, Que., product need not put pressure on himself to dominate the nightly highlights package. His main objectives are to fit into a new dressing room and play the role assigned by head coach Paul Maurice. Dubois is expected to make his debut for the Jets Tuesday against the Calgary Flames.

“The Jets are one of the teams I hated playing against,” Dubois said. “They can play fast and physical. They can play offence. They can play D. They can bring everything to the table.

“I think there’s a lot of talent in the forward group and whoever you’re playing with, you’re playing with a really amazing player.”

In Sunday’s practice, Dubois skated on a line with veteran Trevor Lewis and Winnipeg’s leading goal scorer, Kyle Connor.

“Two amazing players,” Dubois said. “K.C. is one of the most underrated players in the NHL and Lewie brings that experience, just helping me with all the systems and everything. He can pass the puck, he works really hard, so it felt really great to be out there with those two.”

For Dubois, the expectations in Winnipeg are immense, given the Jets acquired him along with a third-round pick from Columbus for disgruntled left wing Patrik Laine and equally disgruntled forward Jack Roslovic.

A third overall pick in 2016, Dubois collected 159 points in his first 239 games. His relationship with Columbus head coach John Tortorella broke down in explosive fashion, and the youngster asked for a change in area code.

Fans in Winnipeg understandably mourned the departure of Laine, a second-overall pick in 2016. At age 22, Laine has the potential to win the Rocket Richard Trophy, as the league’s top goal scorer, for many years to come.

Impressive depth

But the Jets now possess arguably the most impressive depth up the middle in the entire NHL with Dubois, Mark Scheifele, Paul Stastny and Adam Lowry.

“That Patrik Laine trade is so tricky to do and the one thing that you can do [is] to make it right to get a centreman,” Maurice said, heaping praise on general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff. “That’s the one way that you can have a goal-scorer leave your team — and he’s going to score an awful lot of goals — but if you can bring in a centreman, you’ve put your team in really good shape for an awfully long time.”


With Mark Scheifele on board, the Jets have plenty of depth up the middle. (Claus Andersen/Getty Images)

Under the more-relaxed quarantine rules in the U.S., Laine has already scored three goals in three games for Columbus (Roslovic has collected one goal and six points in six appearances with the Blue Jackets).

Dubois knows he must stay true to himself and not try to be someone he is not — despite the inevitable comparisons to Laine.

“I’m a two-way forward, a two-way centre,” he said. “I can play well defensively, play well offensively, I can block shots, I can hit, I can score, I can pass. I try to be the guy that does everything out there –  supports his wingers, supports his defencemen, talks…

“Ever since I was a kid, growing up with a dad as a coach, he tried to instil in me details of the game, stuff that doesn’t necessarily show up on the stats sheet, but at the end of the game matters.”

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Quarantine extended up to 24 days for contacts of COVID-19 variant cases, top doc says

Alberta has changed self-isolation rules for those infected with variants of COVID-19, and in some cases people may end up in quarantine for up to 24 days, says the province’s top public health doctor.

The province has now found 50 cases of the virus variant first identified in the United Kingdom, and seven of the variant first identified in South Africa, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, said Tuesday at a news conference.

“With 57 cases of variants detected, I know that some may be wondering why we have detected so many,” Hinshaw said. “This is thanks to both the excellent work of our lab to expand variant testing quickly, and to the border pilot program, which has detected 28 of our variant cases.”

Because it can be difficult for people with variants to remain effectively isolated from other household members, health officials are ensuring all new variant cases, and people linked to those cases, are aware of Alberta’s hotel isolation and quarantine options, Hinshaw said. 

“If cases choose to stay home during their isolation period, their household contacts will now need to stay at home as well in quarantine, until 14 days have passed from the end of the case’s isolation period, for a total of 24 days,” she said.

“Given how easily this variant is spreading in homes, this enhancement is necessary to prevent spread in the community.”

All seven cases with the variant first identified in South Africa, and 36 cases of the variant first identified in the U.K., were found in returning travellers, Hinshaw said. Another six cases have been detected in the travellers’ close contacts.

But eight of the 57 cases, found in five different households, have no links to travel yet identified, Hinshaw said.

Investigations are underway to determine the source of those cases, Hinshaw said, though four of them have been linked to an outbreak at a daycare.

Hinshaw wouldn’t say where the daycare is because public health officials are still doing notifications. Not all of the four daycare cases have been tested, so it’s not known how many are linked to variants 

“This link was just identified today, and work is underway to notify parents and staff of this facility that the outbreak at this location may be at least partially caused by a variant strain. This is concerning but it does mean that we have a better chance of controlling spread when we understand the linkages between cases.”

Meanwhile, public health investigations in the cases of returning travellers identified some spread of the virus within those households, Hinshaw said.

In two schools in the Calgary zone, that household spread led to the children of returning travellers attending school while they were infectious. Three classes from those two schools are now self-isolating as a result, she said.

The variants are concerning because of the ease of transmission. Hinshaw has said Alberta health officials are working to track the origin of each case.

The government has announced that some public health restrictions affecting restaurants and gyms are planned to be lifted on Monday. 

Alberta reported 268 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday and 13 more deaths.

The last time new cases were that low was in mid-October.

The regional breakdown of active cases on Tuesday was:

  • Calgary zone: 2,805
  • Edmonton zone: 2,280
  • North zone: 852
  • Central zone: 655
  • South zone: 300
  • Unknown: 20 

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Airlines suspending certain flights, Ottawa introducing quarantine hotel stays to discourage travel

Canada’s main airlines have agreed to cancel service to the Caribbean and Mexico and the federal government is introducing new mandatory quarantine rules as it tries to discourage international travel.

This morning, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Air Canada, WestJet, Sunwing and Air Transat have agreed to suspend service to some sun destinations starting this Sunday until April 30, and will be making arrangements with their customers who are in these regions now to organize flights home.

“With the challenges we currently face with COVID-19, both here at home and abroad, we all agree that now is just not the time to be flying,” said Trudeau outside his home at Rideau Cottage.

Starting at 11:59 p.m. ET on Feb. 3, all international passenger, private and charter flights, including from the U.S., will land at the Vancouver, Toronto, Calgary and Montreal airports. Cargo-only flights will remain exempt.

The prime minister said the government will soon introducing mandatory PCR testing at the airport for people returning to Canada “as soon as possible in the coming weeks.” That’s on top of the pre-boarding test already required.

WATCH | Prime minister introduces new restrictions for international travel:

Justin Trudeau announced that Canada’s main airlines have agreed to suspend service to sun destinations until April 30. 3:13

Travellers will then have to wait up to three days at a government-approved hotel for their test results, at their own expense, which Trudeau said is expected to be more than $ 2,000.

Transport Canada said there will be “very limited exceptions.”

Those with a negative test will then be able to finish their 14-day quarantine at home, with increased surveillance. Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam added that returnees will also be swabbed on day 10.

She also said travellers who have been vaccinated abroad will still be subject to the quarantine rules, but added that’s under discussion.

“We know that just one case of the variant that comes in could cause significant challenges and that’s why we need to take extra measures,” Trudeau said.

 “Yes, it is extremely low, the percentage of cases that are traced back to international travel, but it’s not zero.”

He also said that, in the coming weeks, Canada will begin requiring non-essential travellers to show a negative test before entry at the land border with the U.S.

Ed Sims, president and CEO of WestJet, said the federal government asked the airlines to temporarily shutter some of their flights.

“The government asked, and we agreed,” said Sims.

“While we know that air travel is responsible for less than two per cent of cases since the start of the crisis, and even less today, we recognize the Government of Canada’s ask is a precautionary measure.”

Air Canada issued a statement saying the decision won’t have much impact on their cash burn, given already reduced levels of travel.

“Air Canada believes a collaborative approach with the Government of Canada involving all air carriers is the best means to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, especially given concerns around the variants of COVID- 19 and travel during the Spring Break period,” said company president Calin Rovinescu. Customers with booked flights to any of the 15 impacted destinations will be offered full refunds, he added.

Similar measures

When asked why other vacation destinations, including Florida, aren’t part of the suspensions, Transport Minister Omar Alghabra said the government looked at the most popular locations.

“There is a voluntary agreement and understanding with the airlines that it’s best to suspend their airlines. Now for people who are travelling to the U.S., they will be subjected to the same requirements that we subject all arrivals to,” he said.

“What we’re doing is we’re calling on all Canadians to cancel their flights, not just to the Caribbean, not just to Mexico, to all destinations. The prime minister has been clear for a while. I’m repeating it right now, we’re calling on all Canadians to please cancel your vacation.”

Friday’s move follows weeks of mounting political pressure on the federal government to tighten up border travel.

Canada’s move is not without precedent. Australia has been requiring most travellers to quarantine at a government-arranged hotel for 14 days for $ 2,800 AUD per adult and $ 4,620 AUD for a family of four.

The U.K. introduced similar measures on Thursday and now requires citizens arriving from dozens of high-risk countries to quarantine in hotels for 10 days at their own expense.

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole said his party was the first to ask to secure the border at the start of the pandemic and the Liberals were slow to act.

“Lockdowns and restrictions were put in place to buy governments time to get permanent solutions like vaccines, rapid testing, variant testing capacity, and therapeutics – these tools now exist,” he said in a statement.

“The problem is, Justin Trudeau hasn’t succeeded in bringing them to widespread use in Canada. We need to be using these tools to reduce quarantine times, like our allies around the world are doing.”

Canada has had a ban on non-essential travel into the country by anyone who isn’t a citizen or permanent resident since March, but banning the flow of Canadians in and out of the country is a thornier task.

People who return from abroad for non-essential reasons must quarantine for two weeks, or risk hefty financial penalties or jail time — a measure that’s also been in place since March.

As of earlier this month, most travellers must also show proof of a negative COVID-19 test before arriving in Canada.

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Alberta approves NHL games for Edmonton and Calgary, feds waive 14-day quarantine rule for players, staff

Alberta is the first province to officially say the NHL can play games in its arenas for the upcoming season, while at least two of its counterparts say they are working on the issue.

In a statement to The Canadian Press on Thursday, the Alberta government said it approved Edmonton and Calgary for competition on Dec. 25 following the review of protocols outlined in the league’s return-to-play plan, along with some additional enhancements.

Later Thursday, a spokesperson for the Manitoba government said discussions concerning the NHL and hosting games in Winnipeg are ongoing.

Dr. Jazz Atwal, acting deputy chief provincial public health officer in Manitoba, said the province was a joint signatory on a letter sent to the NHL by the five Canadian jurisdictions with teams last week and is working toward the resumption of the season.

“There is still some paperwork and procedural steps that need to take place but, from a public health perspective, it’s a solid plan.”

Atwal said there are a couple of small steps that still need to be finished.

“I believe one is that the orders have to change to allow them to play,” he said.

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix said Thursday that his province is still discussing whether games can be hosted there.

“We haven’t given a final answer but we will soon,” he said at a news conference.

Health officials in Quebec and Ontario did not immediately respond to requests for comment on whether NHL games can be held in those provinces.

The confirmation from Alberta is the first from any of the five provinces with NHL teams since deputy commissioner Bill Daly stated on Dec. 24 that the league believes it can play games in all seven Canadian markets.

Those franchises will only play each other during the regular season and the first two rounds of the playoffs as part of a newly-formed North Division, and won’t be crossing the border with the United States, which remains closed to non-essential travel because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Federal government waives 14-day quarantine

Daly’s Dec. 24 statement came after TSN and Sportsnet reported Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, sent a note to the league on behalf of the provinces asking for increased testing or a return to a scenario in which all teams would be in a secure zone in one city, like this summer in Edmonton and Toronto.

In a separate statement Thursday, the federal government said it has issued an exemption to the mandatory 14-day quarantine period for NHL players and team staff returning to Canada for training camps under “national interest grounds.”

Daly said in an email to The Canadian Press that modified quarantine procedures for players and team staff entering the country are determined by provincial health authorities.

“Modified quarantine means different things in different markets,” Daly’s email read.

However, the provinces with NHL franchises must give their approval for games to be played between Canadian teams during the regular season, which is scheduled to start Jan. 13.

The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) said the league’s plan for training camps offers “robust measures to mitigate the risk of importation and spread of COVID-19 in Canada.” It added all provinces with NHL clubs have provided written support for the plan.

The PHAC statement said all teams must operate within provincial rules for regular-season play.

The Ottawa Senators were one of seven clubs across the 31-team league to begin training camp Thursday after not qualifying for the summer post-season as part of the resumption of the pandemic-halted 2019-20 campaign. The other six Canadian teams are slated to open training camp Sunday or Monday.

The federal government also cleared the Toronto Blue Jays to hold training camp at Rogers Centre under “national interest grounds” this summer, but rejected a proposal for home games against teams from the U.S. The Blue Jays eventually settled on Buffalo, N.Y., as their 2020 base.

The only Canadian professional sports teams to play on home soil during the pandemic have been the six NHL clubs to qualify for the 2019-20 post-season in Toronto and Edmonton, along with Toronto FC, the Montreal Impact and Vancouver Whitecaps of Major League Soccer.

The soccer teams were cleared to take part a series of games against each other in August and September before relocating to the U.S. to face American opposition.

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CDC shortens quarantine recommendation for U.S., raising questions in Canada

The recommended quarantine time for close contacts of a positive COVID-19 case is being reduced by up to a week in the United States, but while some of Canada’s health experts say a similar approach could be useful here, others aren’t so sure.

The U.S.-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced Wednesday it had shortened the recommended length of quarantine after exposure from 14 days to 10 — or seven days with a negative test result.

Health Canada was still recommending a 14-day quarantine period as of Wednesday, but Dr. Zain Chagla, an infectious disease specialist at McMaster University in Hamilton, says cutting that time in half would be beneficial.

“It would be super important for the sake of incentivizing people to actually quarantine after exposure,” he said.

“And there’s a lot of different things that could theoretically open up — getting health-care workers back to work, getting kids back to school — a lot of ways where this could ease the burden of potential exposure in society.”

The CDC had previously said the incubation period for the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 could extend to 14 days, but the organization now says most people become infectious and develop symptoms between four and five days after exposure.

Chagla says the 14-day window was likely inspired from SARS data, where the incubation period was longer.

While isolation and quarantine are sometimes used interchangeably, Chagla says there’s a difference in the terms. Isolation is for those who have tested positive, while quarantine is for people who may or may not actually have the virus, like close contacts of positive cases or those travelling into Canada. Isolation recommendations for positive cases vary, but are typically 10 days after symptom onset.

Typical course of infection

Ashleigh Tuite, an epidemiologist at the University of Toronto, says a change in quarantine guidance reflects our evolving understanding of COVID-19.

“If you’re exposed, it takes a couple days for you to become infectious, so [seven to 10 days] should be enough to tell whether you’ve got the virus,” Tuite said. “But of course, that’s assuming your experience is reflective of the typical course of infection.”

The key to the CDC’s new guidance for Tuite is having the option to end quarantine at seven days with a negative test result. She suspects that’s in place to stop people who have the virus but no symptoms from ending the quarantine period too early.

A positive test at Day 7 would mean that person should continue to isolate, Tuite said, while a negative result would mean they could safely end quarantine, knowing enough time has passed since exposure to confidently assume they won’t still get sick.

Testing capacity challenges

Dr. Don Sheppard, the founder and director of the McGill Interdisciplinary Initiative in Infection and Immunity (MI4), says the CDC’s plan makes sense scientifically, but there would be logistical issues in testing every COVID contact in Canada who wanted to end their quarantine at Day 7.

“It’s impossible to do that,” he said. “It’s either 14 days of proper isolation, or it’s seven days with a negative test, and right now our system cannot offer seven days plus testing to the public at large.”

WATCH | Could the 14-day isolation period be shorter? (At 01:18:45):

Canadians put their questions about the worsening COVID-19 pandemic to experts during an interactive two-hour special, hosted by Adrienne Arsenault and Andrew Chang. 1:39:27

Testing capacity does exist in certain situations, Sheppard said, like for health-care workers and other front-line staff that need a quicker quarantine to get back to work. He cautioned, however, that taking a test on Day 7 still means isolating for an extra day or two while awaiting results.

Quarantine also needs to be done solo in order to work, Sheppard added, warning that the CDC guidance isn’t meant as a loophole for holiday gatherings if your family isolates together for seven days before an event.

Supports for people to quarantine

He used an example of military recruits in the U.S. who were told to quarantine for 14 days before reporting to camp. A handful of positive tests (0.9 per cent) were caught upon arrival, suggesting true quarantine hadn’t been followed.

Those recruits were sent home while the rest underwent another group quarantine. When tested again two weeks later, the positivity rate had grown to 1.3 per cent.

“Why? Because there were people incubating and they turned positive. And those people infected others in their groups,” Sheppard said.

“So if you don’t do strict, single-person isolation, you don’t actually break the cycle of transmission, you just pass it around in your group.”

Tuite says that further illustrates the usefulness of a shortened quarantine period.

A mother with young children, or someone who shares a small apartment with another person will find it harder to properly quarantine for longer periods, she said, as will someone who can’t afford to take a full two weeks off work.

“It really comes down to having the means to do it,” she said. “Can you survive for two weeks if you’re not getting income? Can you isolate in a household with multiple people?

“We need to have support in place so that people can quarantine, and that doesn’t change whether it’s for a week or 14 days. But it becomes much more challenging when it’s for longer periods.”

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Polish President Duda infected with coronavirus; tennis star Swiatek goes into quarantine

Polish President Andrzej Duda has tested positive for coronavirus and is subject to quarantine but is feeling good, officials announced on Saturday, as the country imposed fresh restrictions to try to stem a surge in the disease.

“The president yesterday was tested for the presence of coronavirus. The result turned out to be positive. The president is fine. We are in constant contact with the relevant medical services,” presidential minister Blazej Spychalski said on Twitter.

One of the people Duda met in recent days was tennis star Iga Swiatek, who said soon after the announcement that the president has been infected that she feels good, but will quarantine.

“Neither I nor members of my team have symptoms of coronavirus. We carry out tests regularly. We will quarantine ourselves in accordance with current procedures,” the 19-year-old said in a Twitter post.

Fresh from winning the French Open earlier this month and gaining national hero status for doing so, Swiatek met with Duda on Friday, when she was awarded the Gold Cross of Merit for her achievements in sports and promotion of the country internationally.

Duda, 48, holds a mainly ceremonial role, but has the power to veto legislation. He is an ally of the ruling nationalist Law and Justice (PiS) party.

“The president is a young man, I think that he will pass the infection without problems,” Deputy Health Minister Waldemar Kraska told private radio RMF.

He added that he expects that all people who had contact with Duda in recent days will be quarantined. This should include Swiatek, he said.

Poland is seeing a sharp rise in COVID-19 cases, with new infections hitting a daily record of 13,632 on Friday. The country recorded 13,628 new cases on Saturday.

New measures

More restrictions to curb the spread of the virus came into force on Saturday, including a two-week shutdown of restaurants and bars. Schools will remain open, but only children up to third grade will attend, with older students moving to distance learning.

The government sent text messages on Saturday morning to Poles, urging them to stay home and help elderly people.

The government has also banned public gatherings of more than five people.

Despite this, thousands poured onto streets on Friday night to protest over a ruling on Thursday by the Constitutional Tribunal that imposes a near-total ban on abortion in the predominantly Roman Catholic country.


Police officers try to detain a protester as demonstrators gather for a second consecutive day against a Constitutional Court ruling on tightening Poland’s abortion law on Friday night in Warsaw. The decision means that abortions will only be permitted in cases of rape, incest or when the mother’s health is at risk. (Omar Marques/Getty Images)

The country’s health ministry reported 153 coronavirus deaths on Friday, taking the total toll to 4,172. Poland has reported a total of 228,318 cases.

The health-care system has begun to buckle under the weight of mounting infections, forcing the government to set up field hospitals.

The ruling nationalists have faced criticism in recent days from the opposition that the country is not prepared enough for the second coronavirus wave. Recent opinion polls have shown a drop in support for both PiS and Duda.

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Alberta to pilot COVID-19 testing at border that could shorten quarantine time

Travellers entering Canada by land or air through Alberta will soon have the option of being tested for COVID-19 at the border in a move that could shorten quarantine times — in a pilot project that’s the first of its kind in Canada, Premier Jason Kenney announced Thursday.

The mandatory quarantine period for returning international travellers will be maintained for now. But the 14-day day self-isolation period could be shortened to about 48 hours if a traveller receives a negative COVID-19 test result at one of two border crossings in the province. 

“We simply must move forward to develop policies to facilitate safe travel,” Kenney said during a news conference Thursday, calling it an important day.

“Though a lot of work lies ahead, we can see a return to normal travel.”

Starting Nov. 2, the new COVID-19 testing option will be offered at the Coutts land border crossing in southern Alberta and the Calgary International Airport.

All travellers who choose not to participate in the pilot will have to abide by the normal 14-day quarantine.

For the second consecutive day, Alberta has broken two COVID-19 records for both new cases and active cases — reporting 427 new cases and a total of 3,519 active cases of the illness.

Kenney was speaking from his home in Edmonton, where he is in self-isolation after one of his government ministers tested positive for COVID-19 a day earlier. Kenney tested negative Wednesday night but said he’d continue with the isolation period until Oct. 29.

The voluntary screening option announced Thursday is a joint pilot project between the Province of Alberta and the Government of Canada.

It will be available for foreign essential workers — truckers, health-care workers and other workers who are exempt from the current federal travel ban — and any Canadian citizens returning to the country through Alberta.

If the test comes back negative, travellers will be allowed to leave their place of quarantine as long as they commit to getting a second test on day six or seven after arrival, at a community pharmacy participating in the pilot program, the province said. 

Participants will be closely monitored through daily symptoms checks and be required to follow enhanced preventive health measures, such as wearing masks in public places and avoiding visiting high-risk groups.

WATCH | Contact tracing difficulties hampering attempts to control COVID-19:

COVID-19 cases are rising in Alberta, and officials say difficulties with contact tracing could hamper the province’s ability to slow the spread. 3:49

Could expand to Edmonton

Kenney said if the traveller pilot project goes well, it will be expanded to the airport in Edmonton early in the new year.

“This is an announcement that I have been waiting for, and that we have all been waiting for, for months,” said Calgary Airport Authority president Bob Sartor.

“This innovative, government-approved, science-based testing trial for international arriving guests is the lifeline that airports and airline partners need to instill confidence in air travel once again.”

The pilot was also hailed by Calgary-based airline WestJet.

“Today’s announcement is actually the first piece of good news we have received as an airline since February 29th, when I sat on a Sunday afternoon watching our bookings get outstripped by cancellations and eventually fall by up to 95 per cent,” said WestJet CEO Ed Sims.

Record-breakers

Alberta hit a new record for the most new cases in a single day on Wednesday, at 406, and repeated that on Thursday with 427 new cases. The previous single-day record for reported new cases was 356 on Oct.18. During the first wave of the pandemic, the province hit 351 new cases on April 23.

The province also broke the record for the most active cases with 3,372 active cases on Wednesday, and again on Thursday with 3,519.

 The previous record was set Tuesday, with 3,203.

WATCH | What settings are at a higher risk for COVID-19 transmission?

Two infectious disease doctors answer viewer questions about high-risk settings for COVID-19 transmission and how data about transmission could help people make decisions about how to live their lives. 6:11

The government announced that Municipal Affairs Minister Tracy Allard tested positive on Wednesday afternoon and was experiencing mild symptoms.

Apart from Kenney, Transportation Minister Ric McIver and United Conservative Party MLAs Angela Pitt, Peter Guthrie and Nathan Neudorff are also self-isolating because they had interactions with Allard last week, the statement said, though they are not showing symptoms.

Kenney said Thursday that despite the record numbers of COVID-19 cases, the Alberta government has no plans to impose “indiscriminate” restrictions that would shut down the hospitality industry.

He said the province has been “very successful” at maintaining the least-stringent public restrictions while still managing to have some of the best results in the Western world.

Concerns have been growing in recent days surrounding Alberta’s south health zone, which has seen its number of active cases jump more than six-fold since the beginning of the month.

Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, is expected to give the latest provincial COVID-19 update at 3:30 p.m. MT and CBC News will carry it live here.

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