Ottawa has no plans to force land travellers to quarantine in hotels — at least not yet

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The federal government has no immediate plans to force non-essential travellers entering Canada by land to spend part of their quarantine in a pricey hotel, CBC News has learned.

That means Canadian snowbirds who flew to the U.S. and shipped their cars across the land border won't be subject to a hotel stay after driving back into Canada — at least not at this time. 

Tougher land border requirements could come at a later date, said Mary-Liz Power, spokesperson for Public Safety Minister, Bill Blair.

"We have not rejected the idea of imposing further measures ... at the land border," which already has a tight regime, Power told CBC News in an email. 

Air travellers facing tough new measures

Meanwhile, as early as Thursday, snowbirds and most other travellers entering Canada by air will face tough new measures designed to discourage international travel during the pandemic. They will be required to take a COVID-19 test upon arrival in Canada and spend up to three days of a 14-day quarantine in a designated hotel, which could cost travellers upwards of $2,000 because of costs associated with the safety measures.

Discussions about tougher land border rules are already in progress, Transport Minister Omar Alghabra told CBC Radio's As It Happens on Monday.

But at this point, the only new requirement that non-essential land travellers will soon face is to show proof of a negative COVID-19 test at the border — a rule that has been in place for air passenger arrivals since Jan. 7.

Although the Canada-U.S. land border is closed to non-essential travel during the pandemic, Canadian leisure travellers can still fly to the United States, ship their cars over, and return home by any mode of transport.

'I'll sleep better tonight'

In December, snowbird Steve MacDonald flew to Florida and transported his car there. He plans to drive back home to Oakville, Ont., in early April. 

He doesn't mind taking a COVID-19 test before crossing the border and was pleased to hear the government has no current plans to subject him to a costly hotel stay.

"I'll sleep better tonight," said MacDonald, who is spending the winter in Key Largo.

MacDonald said he believes the government won't implement the hotel rule at a later date for land travellers because it would be a challenge to enforce the requirement at the more than 100 land border crossings across Canada.

"Even when the talk of this [hotel plan] came through, I thought, 'Land borders are going to be a problem,'" MacDonald said.