Many Canadian snowbirds opting to stay south until restrictions are lifted

The hustle and bustle surrounding the new travel restrictions is not affecting snowbirds at the moment, but come spring, returning home to their nests may be too difficult to manage.

Many of them will wait several more weeks or until a possible easing of restrictions before starting their return journey by plane, car or both, according to Denise Dumont, editor-in-chief of the French-language newspaper Le Soleil de la Florida.

"This is not a pilgrimage to return to Canada," says a recent article in the paper, which is meant for a snowbird audience.

Travellers entering Canada are now all required to present a negative COVID-19 screening test carried out within 72 hours of arriving, to take a second test upon arrival in Canada, and then a third test 10 days after the start of their quarantine period.

Already, media have reported that snowbirds have been using ploys to avoid returning to Canada by plane, thus bypassing the mandatory stay at a hotel.

Companies offer flights to a town near the Canada-U.S. border and delivery of a vehicle to cross customs.

The fact remains that even for those who want to respect federal rules and health instructions to the letter, a logistical headache awaits them. The test carried out within 72 hours of arrival leaves little room to maneuver for those who will have to drive twenty hours to reach their destination.

"We have no choice -- we will have to do it in one go. We will stop as little as possible," said Anne Dupere who, with her spouse, will make the return trip at the end of March by car.

"Usually we do it in two days, but this time it's in one shot. We're only going to stop to get gas and go to the bathroom. If we're really tired, we'll stop in a parking lot and go to bed for a couple of hours," she said.

The two retirees say they will receive the results of their test on their phones on the way.

The road back could also be strewn with pitfalls if the curfew in Quebec is still in effect.

"If I arrive at customs at 7:30 p.m. or 8 p.m., what do I do? Do I continue and get stopped by the police on the road? Or do I stop at a hotel and get pulled over because I'm not supposed to stop anywhere?" wondered Michèle Tasse, who also plans to return in March.

Dumont feels the federal rules were rushed through, without taking into account the reality of Canadians who live in Florida.

"These restrictive measures were made, in the end, for those who went on spring break, those who simply went on vacation for two weeks during the month of March," she said.

"That was the real cause of it all, it was to discourage people from leaving Canada."

Dumond added that many snowbirds have been vaccinated, and what's more, some are older and can't afford to drive such long distances.

"The snowbirds are at home here. It doesn't cost them anything more to live here, it's their property," said Dumont.

"So they will stay until time permits, hoping that by then the restrictive measures will be relaxed and that they will not be forced to spend three days in the hotel."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 23, 2021. 

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