Einstein at the airport | Journalism

Having trouble understanding the rules that apply to travelers? Normal.


Do you complicate your plans to the point that you lose the desire to travel? This is also normal. That was kind of the goal.

The federal government warned Canadians a few months ago that the rules could change, without warning and not in your favor. This has just happened since the arrival of the Omicron variant.

Ottawa has two goals: to protect Canadians and deter them from leaving the country. The whole question is whether the burden imposed on travelers is justified, and whether there is a way to make the system less complex.

Before sharing my mood about it, because it’s so much fun, I try to explain.

While Trudeau’s government has handled the procurement of vaccines well, it has come under fire for its slow and sluggish management of the border at the start of the pandemic. With the arrival of the Omicron variant, the liberals did not want to repeat this mistake.

On Tuesday, November 30, less than a week after the first headlines for the Omicron variant appeared, the screw was tightened.

It is not difficult to understand the new procedures. It’s not quantum physics after all. But it’s too time-consuming to explain, and the Ottawa charts are too sketchy to include all the details.

Since last summer, Canadians and permanent residents abroad are required to take a PCR test three days before taking the return flight. The negative result must be submitted before boarding, and then to customs on arrival.

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These measures have just been reinforced for a list of 10 African countries where the Omicron* variant is specially traded. If your flight departs from one of these countries and then stops at another place, you should take another test there and then wait for the result before taking your flight. For example, for the Cape Town – London – Montreal flight, you have to get out of the English airport, go to the city, take a PCR test there and wait for the result before moving on.

Seems like an impossible task, and Ottawa doesn’t hide it. The goal is to delay the deterministic propagation of the variable here. But why not impose such restrictions on countries such as Belgium and the Netherlands, where the Omicron variant was observed? Ottawa is responding because transmission is carried out first by travelers and health authorities are cooperating with other countries. Of course, you have to cut the line somewhere. Yet South Africa is being punished for protecting the world by sounding the alarm.

And upon arrival?

Before the Omicron variant, Canadians were randomly tested after going through customs at the airport. About a quarter of them underwent a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test.

Here, too, the measure was tightened at the end of November.

Those who have passed through one of the 10 target countries must now undergo a PCR test upon arrival. They are then sent by bus to a quarantine center, such as a hotel, to wait for the result. Even if it’s negative, they should self-isolate at home.

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For those returning from the United States, nothing has changed.

For those who come from other countries (except the United States and the 10 countries on the list), the likelihood of getting tested increases. It goes up from 25% to about 40%.

Ottawa hopes to reach 100% when logistics allow. He emphasized that there is no shortage of tests or personnel. Rather, the problem is the lack of space.

At many airports, the area after going through customs is very narrow. The queues there would be enormous, enough to create compromises that are not without risk.

The final component of the complexity, domestic related return flights in Canada. For example, if your flight from Tokyo lands in Toronto, your potential test will be there after you pass customs. You are then allowed to take your last flight to Montreal or Quebec before receiving your result. You have to isolate yourself at home while he waits.

There you are, you don’t have to be an Einstein to understand. But you shouldn’t be in a hurry…

I understand angry travelers. I can criticize the confusion, but if you amplify it by exposing it, it won’t help much.

Above all, I’m putting myself in the shoes of the federal government and asking myself: Can we protect Canadians in a simpler way?

I am waiting to find out the best option.

However, there is a real problem with border management by the federal government. It is not found in the same rules imposed on travelers. Rather, the federal government’s inability to implement it. In his chronic failures to conduct a large number of examinations and follow-up quarantine.

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So, it’s a real mess.

At the start of the pandemic, the federal government was accused of not doing enough. Now he is criticized for being too harsh.

In fact, there was one constant from the beginning: whatever is required in theory, it differs in practice, for unjustified and unjustified reasons.

It is in these holes that the virus creeps its way. This is what we must denounce first of all.

* Here is the list of countries: Botswana, Egypt, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, South Africa and Zimbabwe.

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