Travellers who refuse hotel quarantine will soon face larger fines

Instead of acting on an advisory panel's recommendation to end the mandatory quarantine hotel program for those flying into Canada, the federal government is increasing the penalty for those who choose to skip it.

The government says tickets issued by police for violations of the Quarantine Act will carry a maximum fine of $5,000 as of Friday. That's a 67 per cent increase from the $3,000 fine that is currently in place.

Some travellers have been choosing to pay the $3,000 rather than submit to the quarantine process, which involves taking a COVID-19 test at the airport and then staying in a hotel for up to 72 hours while awaiting the result, at a personal cost of up to $2,000.

The Public Health Agency of Canada says that 798 fines were issued between Feb. 22 and May 7 for refusal to quarantine in a hotel, 606 in Ontario and 192 in British Columbia. It does not have any records of fines being issued in Quebec or Alberta, the other two provinces where international flights are still permitted to land.

A federal advisory panel recommended last week that the quarantine hotel requirement cease, in part because of the number of travellers who are choosing to take the fine and skip the hotel.

The recommendation to end mandatory hotel quarantine has the backing of the airline industry. The government's response was more lukewarm, with Health Minister Patty Hajdu saying only that she would consult with her provincial counterparts before making any decision about relaxing restrictions.

The government says that more than 99 per cent of all travellers comply with the regulations.