Travellers push back over COVID quarantine charges

“COVID confusion” has led travellers to speak up regarding overpriced and substandard conditions faced at local hotels near Pearson International Airport.
The rollout of the federal government’s updated quarantine procedures for international travellers arriving at Pearson and other major airports throughout the country has led to reports of price-gouging in hotels, a lack of communication between hotel staff and guests and inconsistent guidelines over how much is being charged per night and per person.
In the case of Ontario resident Cristine Teixeira, who arrived back in Canada and isolated in a hotel last week alongside her brother and daughter after attending a loved one’s funeral in Portgual, that confusion led to a $3,458 bill for a one-night stay — nearly double the price originally quoted.
Calling the matter “ill-conceived,” Teixera said Monday that the stress she and her family were put under was inconceivable. “This is wrong on so many levels,” Teixeira told CTV News on Monday. “We’ve never experienced something like this.”
Teixeira claimed that the price quoted to her family at the Crowne Plaza Hotel, located near Pearson, went up from $369 to $769 per night plus tax — an amount that wasn’t communicated to them until they checked out 15 hours after arriving and receiving a negative result on their COVID-19 tests. In documents provided to the media, Teixeira’s hotel receipt for the Crowne Plaza quoted $3,458 for their stay after taxes and additional fees, which was paid at the insistence of the hotel. Despite attempts by the family, the hotel refused to compensate them for the two nights they didn’t spend in the hotel but were charged.
A spokesperson for IHG Hotels and Resorts, the owner of the Crowne Plaza Hotel, said Wednesday that they were aware of the matter and are “addressing with the hotel.”
Teixeira is far from the only traveller who has expressed concern and confusion over the new guidelines implemented for travel quarantines in Ontario. Updated hotel requirements for international travellers went into effect on Monday, as the federal government sought to crack down on potential COVID-19 cases amid uncertainty over new variants.
Travellers arriving at Pearson and other major airports must book a three-day hotel stay before getting on a return flight to Canada, and only through a phone line maintained by the Public Health Agency of Canada. Upon arriving, travellers are asked to take a COVID-19 test and then report to their hotel for quarantine. If the test result comes back negative, the traveller(s) are allowed to leave the hotel they were quarantined in and head to their original destination.
Under the new federal program, travellers must show proof of a three-day hotel booking before boarding their flight to Canada. The only way to book a room is through a dedicated phone line run by the Public Health Agency of Canada. There is no online option.
However, confusion over a lack of arrangements, substandard service, inconsistent fines and food shortages have led to complaints from travellers, who have been forced to rely on hotel staff to receive food, water and other necessities.
Ray Truesdale, a traveller who made arrangements to quarantine at the Sheraton Gateway Hotel near Pearson, posted a video of his hotel experience on Feb. 28, showing a box of vegetarian food that included a drink and took six hours to reach his room — at a cost of $47.23.
“$47 for chili and rice and a salad… this is criminal,” Truesdale said in a social media post.
Allegations of sexual harassment and violence at “quarantine hotels” have also led some Conservative MPs to ask the federal government to suspend its mandatory policies until an investigation is conducted.
In a joint statement, Conservative MPs including Health Critic Michelle Rempel Garner, said that they were “deeply angered to hear reports of sexual violence are happening during federally mandated quarantines by those supposed to be protecting public health,” and that the alleged violations, which include a Windsor man who is alleged to have assaulted a woman in a Quebec hotel room and a Hamilton resident who is alleged to have assaulted a woman during a quarantine check while on-duty as a guard, were “unconscionable.”
Reports also suggest that a large number of Punjabi students are arriving and demanding Punjabi food, which is not normally possible in government-approved hotels, and no outside food from relatives in the hotel is allowed.

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Asia Metro Editor

Surjit Singh Flora

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