Canadians Using Cabs to Avoid Quarantine Restrictions


With Ontario embracing some of the strictest lockdown restrictions in the West and giving the police force carte blanche when it comes to enforcing public health, many Canadians have told us they’re not exactly enthralled with the idea of notifying their government that they’ve been out of the country. This is doubly true if they’ve just flown in by plane because the nation now requires a few days’ stay in a hotel as part of its mandatory 14-day quarantine for those traveling by air.

Due to the added time, cost, and general hassle of booking yourself into a hotel for 3 nights — awaiting the results of a mandatory COVID test before you’re technically allowed to go home to continue self-isolation — some travelers have opted to utilize ground transportation for the explicit purpose of avoiding restrictions. Rather than flying all the way into the Great White North, Canadians are flying into neighboring American airports and then hailing a taxi that will take them across the border. 

Reuters had the cost breakdown, estimating that the average cost of hiring a car to get into Canada from the U.S. border is somewhere around $250. While the estimate on the 3-day hotel stay was a lofty $1,000, even a few nights at one of those fleabag joints will easily surpass whatever it’s going to cost you to just drive (or be driven) home. Another consideration is that those coming in by plane who do end up testing positive for COVID will be ultimately moved to a government-appointed facility and isolated for the duration of the illness.

Numerous cab and limo companies told the outlet that the situation had created an upswing in business near the border. New York has undoubtedly seen the most action, though it’s hardly the only area seeing a surge of activity. Similar trends have been noticed in just about any area where there’s a lot of cross-country commerce, including examples of people stopping at the border to walk across before booking another ride for the rest of the trip home.

From Reuters:

Non-commercial land border crossings were 60 [percent] higher during one week at the end of March and beginning of April than in the same week in 2020, according to data from the Canada Border Services Agency. Air travel for that same week, meanwhile, increased 18.8 [percent].

The discrepancy between the rules at the land border and by air is a sore point for Canada’s hard-hit carriers.

Unlike land travelers who can choose where to quarantine, air passengers who test positive at a hotel must self-isolate at a government-mandated facility.

According to Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) data for Feb. 22 through March 25, 1.5 [percent] of air passengers to the country tested positive for the virus on arrival compared with 0.3 [percent] of land travelers.

As you might have expected, the knowledge that there are people crossing the border without being subject to the same rigid screening that air travelers receive has left some Canadians demanding tighter rules for ground transport — including Ontario Premier Doug Ford and Premier of Quebec François Legault. Assuming restrictions are enhanced, expect them to be limited to popular border crossings and places where the rules could be more easily enforced (e.g. bridges).

[Image: Cameris/Shutterstock]

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