National Post (Latest Edition)

Canada grovels for vaccines


- Chris selley

All is well between Ottawa and New Delhi, it seems, or at least as well as it was before. Eleven weeks after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau annoyed the Indian government by going to bat for the country’s protesting farmers — he said his government had “reached out through multiple means directly to the Indian authoritie­s to highlight our concerns,” and vowed (ludicrousl­y) that “Canada will always be there to defend the right of peaceful protest” — a telephone call between Trudeau and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi last week seems to have settled the matter.

The Canadian headlines Monday were hardly at all about the farmers, and much more about the immediatel­y tangible payoff: “India to send Canada COVID-19 vaccines ‘in less than a month’.”

The initial shipment from the Serum Institute of India, the world’s most prolific vaccine producer, will reportedly be 500,000 doses of the Oxford-astrazenec­a jab. Trudeau’s government, whose assurances of universal vaccinatio­n by Oct. 1 are not backed by anything very convincing, must be hoping for more.

And if he’s willing to sell the farmers down the river, well, it’s not like his interventi­on was going to make much difference anyway. It’s not like many Canadian voters, outside of much-coveted ethnic voting blocs, care about foreign policy.

And good thing, too: If they did, toes might be curling right about now.

The Canadian PMO’S official readout of the call did not contain the word “farmer.” It mentioned the controvers­y only under its breath: “The leaders discussed Canada and India’s commitment to democratic principles, recent protests, and the importance of resolving issues through dialogue.”

Indian foreign ministry spokespers­on Anurag Srivastava painted a rather grander portrait. “On the farmers’ protests, Prime Minister Trudeau commended efforts of the government of India to choose the path of dialogue as befitting in democracy,” Srivastava said, the financial newspaper Mint reported.

reviews from the farmers have been far less positive, it must be said.

Mint’s headline: “Trudeau commends India’s path to hold dialogue with protesting farmers.”

Srivastava also took a pretty solid, subtle dig at one of Canadian politics’ uglier subplots: “(Trudeau) also acknowledg­ed the responsibi­lity of his government in providing protection to Indian diplomatic premises and personnel in Canada.”

Trudeau’s comments in support of the farmers came during a dec. 1 online townhall with members of Canada’s Sikh community. Most of the protesting farmers are Sikhs. New delhi claims Trudeau emboldened Sikh separatist­s in Canada, including extremists, who wish to establish a homeland they call Khalistan on what is now Indian and Pakistani territory. The extremists are most famous for blowing up Air India flight 182 in 1985, at a cost of 329 lives, 268 of them Canadian.

Speeches on the steps of the Indian consulate in Vancouver

on Jan. 26 explicitly linked the farmers’ plight to the wider struggle for Khalistan. The Indian government alleges both the consul-general’s and Modi’s lives were directly threatened as well — in the latter case by Inderjit Singh bains, who is perhaps most famous for warning two of Canada’s better-known moderate Sikhs, ujjal dosanjh (then a Vancouver MP) and dave Hayer (then a Surrey MLA), not to attend Surrey’s Sikh New year parade in 2010 without their own security in tow.

Hayer’s father, newspaper publisher Tara Singh Hayer, had turned against Khalistan extremists after Air India. His damning testimony implicatin­g accused bomber Ajaib Singh bagri — he swore an affidavit that he had overheard a confession — was never admitted at the trial, in part because he was assassinat­ed in 1996.

dosanjh survived a 1985 assassinat­ion attempt, it is assumed for his anti-extremist efforts. Jaspar Atwal, his alleged assailant, was acquitted — but convicted later of trying to murder Punjabi minister Malkiat Singh Sidhu on Vancouver Island the next year. Atwal was the guy the Canadian High Commission in New delhi accidental­ly invited to a formal reception with Trudeau and family during their slapstick 2018 tour of India. Whoops!

There has always been a reckoning waiting to happen in Canadian politics over Sikh extremism, and more generally over a foreign policy whose consistent incoherenc­e can be traced in part to every political party’s constant wooing of ethnic blocs. Of course, that incoherenc­e can be traced in much larger part to the fact that Canada really doesn’t matter on the world stage, and the parties that govern it care far more about exaggerati­ng their own carefully branded efforts at improving the world than actually intensifyi­ng those efforts or making any big improvemen­ts.

To see the charade revealed so dramatical­ly over a promise of just 500,000 vaccine doses is still remarkable. And hey, good on Trudeau: we can’t spare 500,000 doses!

but if we weren’t so dependent on other countries for the things we need — for everything from military self-defence to vaccines — we might be spared these indignitie­s. In some situations, we might even have a bit of leverage. but at the moment we’ll happily flatter just about anyone who can guarantee us some vaccines. And rightly so. beggars can’t be choosers. We should at least recognize, however, that we are officially beggars.

Starting Feb. 22, some internatio­nal travellers flying to Canada will have to quarantine for a minimum of three days at a selected hotel, as part of the federal response to clamp down on the surge of COVID-19 cases across the country. Many have questioned the efficacy of the new hotel quarantine rules and are especially queasy about the cost of staying in a hotel for the allotted time — three days with a mandatory bill of $2,000. Canada isn’t the only country to implement a hotel quarantine. Since last year, New Zealand and Australia have carried out a strict hotel quarantine regime that has been lauded as a contributo­r to the low number of cases in the two nations. The United Kingdom, as of this month, has also implemente­d its own set of rules around quarantini­ng in a hotel. The National Post’s Devika Desai compares Canada’s hotel quarantine plan to those in the U.K. and Australia. UNITED KINGDOM When were the rules enacted?

The government mandated that the rules will take effect as of Monday, Feb 15.

To whom do the rules apply?

All internatio­nal travellers entering the u.k. after visiting or passing through any of the 33 countries on the government’s ‘red list’ — mostly in Africa and South America, as well as the united Arab emirates.

Where do travellers stay?

Travellers are required to stay at one of the 16 ‘quarantine managed hotels’ and must pre-book their stay at the hotel via an online booking portal as part of a mandatory quarantine package, which also includes transport from the airport to the hotel and a COVID-19 testing package.

The booking system was temporaril­y taken down minutes after being launched to correct a ‘minor technical issue’ but officials told bbc that they expected to have the system up and running again by Friday.

Quarantine hotels will be located near airports at Heathrow, Gatwick, London City, birmingham, bristol, Manchester, edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen.

How long do travellers have to quarantine in the hotel?

A minimum of 10 days, during which travellers will have to undergo two COVID-19 checks. If either of the tests come back positive, then the quarantine will be extended by another 10 days, from the date of the test.

What happens during a hotel quarantine?

Travellers at the airport must submit a passenger locator form, which will include details of their quarantine package, as well as their passport and a negative COVID-19 test result, to border Force officers. They will then be taken through the airport along with other passengers who have to quarantine and transporte­d to the hotel via the means outlined in their package.

Groups that have travelled together will be allowed to quarantine together in larger rooms.

Hotel staff will provide residents with three meals a day as well as some essential services. residents can also order items to be delivered, but will not be allowed to step outside the room except in extenuatin­g circumstan­ces.

Travellers in quarantine will have to take two COVID-19 tests during their stay, on day two and day eight.

Who enforces the quarantine?

The quarantine will be enforced by the u.k. government. breaking quarantine rules could enforce a penalty fine of up to 10,000 pounds ($17,500). Travellers who arrive in england without buying a quarantine package could face a penalty fine of 4,000 pounds ($7,041).

How much does it cost? Is there a payment plan?

On average, solo travellers will have to pay 1,750 pounds ($3,077) for their 10-day mandatory stay. For every additional adult (or child over 12), an additional cost of 650 pounds ($1,143) will be added, as well as for every additional child younger than 12, but older than five. Children under five years of age will be compensate­d by the government.

A deferred payment plan is available for low-income earners who already receive income-related benefits, under the condition that they repay the government within 12 months of the quarantine. Quarantine package prices may change after March.

CANADA When were the rules enacted?

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau first announced a mandatory hotel quarantine on Jan. 29 and said that the plan is expected to come into effect by Feb. 22. Government officials however, are still working out the finer details of the rules, like defining what counts as ‘non-essential travel’ and providing a list of criteria to hotels quarantini­ng travellers.

To whom do the rules apply?

The rules will apply to all passengers returning from non-essential air travel to Canada, although the government has not specified what that would entail. Officials have also included a list of 20 categories exempting a large portion of passengers from the quarantine rules.

Where do travellers stay?

Passengers returning to Canada will have to reserve a room at a government-approved hotel of their choice, in the city where they land, prior to their departure. Informatio­n on how to book the hotel will be available online as of Feb 18, 2021.

The government has not publicly listed the available hotels as yet, but specified that only hotels within 10 kilometres of one of the four internatio­nal airports currently accepting flights from abroad — Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto and Montreal — will be selected.

How long do travellers have to quarantine in the hotel?

A minimum of three days until a negative result comes back from a COVID-19 PCR test taken at the airport. If the result is negative, travellers may leave the hotel but are still required to finish their 14-day quarantine at home.

What happens during a hotel quarantine?

Travellers, before leaving the airport, will be made to take a COVID-19 PCR test. Hotels will be responsibl­e for transporti­ng guests to their accommodat­ions, providing meals, Wi-fi and phone access, as well as a protocol to allow travellers some time outside the room, while being sequestere­d from regular clients.

Hotels will be also be responsibl­e for reporting traveller informatio­n to the authoritie­s and for ensuring that travellers comply with the quarantine.

If a traveller tests positive for COVID-19, then they will be transferre­d to a federally run quarantine facility where their symptoms will be monitored.

If a traveller’s COVID-19 test comes back negative, they may leave the hotel and complete a two-week quarantine at home. It will be up to travellers to arrange their own transport, whether it be a connecting flight to another city or using private or public transport within the city.

Travellers will still be required to take a second COVID-19 test at the end of the 14 days. It will be up to the traveller to contact their local public health authoritie­s and arrange to take a PCR test on day 10 of their quarantine.

Who enforces the quarantine?

The quarantine will be enforced by hotel staff, as well as security companies working with the federal public health agency. Violation of any quarantine rules could lead to a fine of up to $750,000 and/or six months in jail. How much does it cost? Is there a payment plan?

Travellers will have to pay a minimum of $2,000 per person for their three-day quarantine, which will cover the cost of the transporta­tion, room, meals, cleaning, infection control and prevention as well as security. Costs may vary slightly depending on the hotel. The government has not yet announced any payment plan options for individual­s earning a low-income.

AUSTRALIA When were the rules enacted?

Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced the government’s plan to enact a mandatory hotel quarantine scheme on March 27.

To whom do the rules apply?

To all internatio­nal travellers entering Australia, except for those travelling from New Zealand. Some transiting air and sea passengers may also be exempt from a hotel quarantine or asked to temporaril­y quarantine at a state-run facility until they need to travel.

Where do travellers stay?

All travellers are required to stay at a variety of statepicke­d hotels, many of which hold four- or five -star ratings. Travellers don’t get to choose which hotel they stay at nor do they get to pick their rooms.

How long do travellers have to quarantine in the hotel?

A minimum of 14 days, during which travellers will be screened for symptoms and tested for COVID-19. If no symptoms and tests come back negative, then travellers may leave their hotels at the end of the two-week period. However, if symptoms persist and/or if someone in quarantine refuses to get tested, then the quarantine stay can be extended to 24 days or whenever the infection has cleared.

What happens during a hotel quarantine?

Travellers landing at the airport are usually made to undergo a COVID-19 symptom and temperatur­e check at the airport, after which they are transporte­d to a state-managed hotel via buses. Most hotels quarantine­s mandate that doors and windows of the room be closed at all times during the stay, with some exceptions for hotels that include a balcony or a veranda with the room. Hotel staff provide meals, laundry services and health checks, although some states allow travellers to order takeout meals on a limited basis.

Travellers are responsibl­e for their rooms’ cleanlines­s during their stay, but may request cleaning products from the hotel.

They are also asked to take a COVID-19 test during the first and last 48 hours of their quarantine.

Who enforces the quarantine?

The rules of hotel quarantine are set and managed by state government­s. Anyone who violates quarantine rules can expect penalty fines of up to $50,000, depending on the state, as well as jail time.

How much does it cost? Is there a payment plan?

The exact cost of a 14-week quarantine can differ, depending on the state and the hotel someone stays in, but on average, solo-travellers can expect to pay around $3,000 for two weeks, while a family of four might pay around $5,000. Travellers are expected to pay the fee within 30 days of leaving the hotel.

All states include payment options for low-income earners who cannot afford the cost upfront, which include either paying the fee in monthly instalment­s or applying for an exemption based on financial hardship or compassion. In cases where travellers only quarantine for 48 hours or less — either because they are in transit or have to be treated at a hospital — they may either be asked to pay a portion of the fee or have it waived.

What have people said about their hotel quarantine experience?

Opinions are mixed and generally depend on the quality of the hotel and the services provided. Some individual­s have complained about the lack of ventilatio­n in their room, the quality of provided meals and the strict restrictio­ns keeping people in their rooms at all times.

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 ?? Narinder NANU / AFP / GETTY IMAGES FILES ?? Prime Minister Justin Trudeau pays his respects at the Sikh shrine the Golden Temple in Amritsar
while on a visit to India in February 2018.
Narinder NANU / AFP / GETTY IMAGES FILES Prime Minister Justin Trudeau pays his respects at the Sikh shrine the Golden Temple in Amritsar while on a visit to India in February 2018.
 ?? Ben STANSALL / AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES ?? The results of a thermal imaging camera are shown as a person waits at the reception desk at the St Giles Hotel near Heathrow Airport in London recently. The hotel has offered to become one of England’s designated quarantine hotels for travellers re-entering the country after visiting any country on England’s red list.
Ben STANSALL / AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES The results of a thermal imaging camera are shown as a person waits at the reception desk at the St Giles Hotel near Heathrow Airport in London recently. The hotel has offered to become one of England’s designated quarantine hotels for travellers re-entering the country after visiting any country on England’s red list.

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