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Canada bombshell – Country pulls all Caribbean flights, rocking tourism, private plans

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As Canada locks out the Caribbean and Mexico from its borders, Jamaican tourism stakeholders are hopeful the United States will not take the same approach.

The US is Jamaica’s largest source market, with Canada playing a significant role in second place. However, yesterday, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that as of Sunday, January 31, all Canadian airlines with flights to the region and Mexico will suspend those routes until April 30.

The airlines include Air Canada, Westjet, Sunwing and Air Transat.

The news comes as a shock, particularly to Jamaican tourism sector operators, who pulled out all stops to implement the protocols surrounding PCR tests for travellers entering Canada and the United Kingdom, as well as ensuring the availability of the rapid antigen tests for those travelling to the United States.

The industry went as far as to support the introduction of COVID-19 testing facilities by the Baywest Wellness Clinic at both the Sangster and Norman Manley international airports. Testing in the airport commenced on Tuesday.

Many of the larger resorts are also offering COVID-19 testing on their properties.

When the Canadians dropped the bombshell on Friday, Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association President Clifton Reader could only say, at the start of his press statement, that it was an unfortunate development.

Disappointment and reality evidenced in his tone, Reader said the suspension of service by the four main airlines will negatively affect inflows of travellers, but added that he could not fault the Canadian Government for doing what it feels necessary to protect its citizens from what has proven to be a deadly virus.

“Although Canada has had reduced movement across its borders for several months due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we had hoped that with the approval of several vaccines, we would begin to see a reduction in travel restrictions and opening up of borders now closed due to increased numbers of positive results over the recent past months,” he noted.

He added that only last week the news that the US had recorded a 35 per cent decrease in their case count readings, and with the ramping up of their vaccination programme, the sector was hoping that nothing catastrophic would occur causing the US to feel the need to take the Canadian approach.

Resigning himself to Jamaica’s fate at this time, Reader said the sector continues to do what it can to protect the employees, families and communities by following stringent protocols.

The reaction of Jamaicans in Canada is mixed, with some convinced that the borders need to be closed so the Canadian Government can manage the virus effectively. The presence of the South African variant found in the US on Thursday has not helped to subdue the fear in the North American country.

“It depends on whether the Caribbean and Mexico wants to play a long game or short game,” said Sandra Sterling, a Jamaican residing in Canada.

Trudeau had to get an agreement from the tourism stakeholders in Canada and they needed to play a long game, she argued.

Another Jamaican, Jason Earle, who found out about the cancellations when he tried to book a flight on Friday to attend his best friend’s funeral, spoke of how stressful his life has become under the various lockdowns in Canada.

“We have been under a state of emergency here for four months already, and now this,” he lamented, adding that he cannot even get a haircut. “For us who are from the Caribbean this latest decision is too extreme.”

He is questioning why travellers to and from Europe and the US have not been affected.

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Travel & Escape

American woman faces $2,800 parking bill after leaving car in Toronto during pandemic

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Parking in the city can be costly, but one American woman is learning just how bad it can be after being unable to retrieve her car for nearly a year.

Detroit resident Kim Richardson left her 2004 Honda Element at the Park2Sky lot by Pearson airport in March 2020 before flying out to Europe for a medical procedure. She originally planned to retrieve it within two weeks but partway through her trip, the Canada-US border got closed due to COVID-19 precautions.

Richardson’s return flight was rerouted to Detroit and she’s been unable to return to Toronto since.

What was originally a $100 bill has now inflated to $2,800 as the lot’s owner says he has a business to operate and is owed payment for 11 months of storage. However, Richardson believes she’s being extorted for an issue beyond her control.

Park2Sky personnel claim that several Americans who found themselves in similar predicaments have had their cars shipped home.

“I don’t understand, I don’t know what’s going on here. Business is down, I’m not making any money at all. People who leave their car are paid. She’s the only one that hasn’t paid,” said the owner to CBC News this week.

The stalemate is expected to last a while longer as travel restrictions remain in place and Ontario Provincial Police have said they won’t get involved in a civil matter.

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All systems are go for St. Lawrence Cruise Lines in 2021

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KINGSTON — Despite Canada’s newly extended cruise ship ban, Canadians still have a small-ship cruising alternative in 2021 with St. Lawrence Cruise Lines.

The small-ship operator, which sails on the St. Lawrence and Ottawa Rivers, has confirmed operations for 2021, with overnight cruises on both rivers from May 20 to Oct. 24. A variety of cruises ranging from four to seven nights will depart from Kingston, Ottawa and Quebec City, sailing exclusively in domestic waters with stops at select ports in Ontario and Quebec.

On Feb. 4, Canada’s Minister of Transport, Omar Alghabra announced that Canada’s cruise ship ban will be extended until Feb. 28, 2022. This measure, which effectively prohibits cruise vessels carrying more than 100 passengers from operating in Canadian waters, does not impact the small-ship operations of St. Lawrence Cruise Lines and its 32-stateroom CANADIAN EMPRESS.

“We are excited to offer travellers a small ship option for the 2021 season,” said President Jason Clark. “Our overnight cruises stay close to shore in Canadian waters and our COVID-19 Health and Safety program has been recognized for its high standards.”

This past December, the cruise line was awarded the Safe Travels Stamp by the Tourism Industry Association of Ontario (TIAO) for adherence to global standards of health and hygiene. The program includes a wide range of safety measures, including reduced passenger loads, masking, physical distancing and hospital-grade electrostatic disinfecting for both private staterooms and shared spaces. Plus, all staterooms have access to fresh air, climate controls and views of the river.

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Here’s How Canada’s ‘Screening Officers’ Will Check On Travellers During Quarantine

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The federal government is reminding all travellers in Canada that “Screening Officers” may pay them a visit post-arrival.

In a statement about the country’s latest travel restrictions, Transport Canada confirmed that newly-trained officials would be tasked with checking up on travellers during their two-week quarantine period.

The role of the Screening Officers will be to visit travellers’ quarantine locations to “establish contact, confirm identify and confirm that travellers are at the place of quarantine they identified upon entry into Canada.”

This is to make sure individuals are complying with Canada’s mandatory 14-day quarantine requirement.

The checks will be conducted across 35 Canadian cities, having already started in Montreal and Toronto back in January.

The officials will provide “compliance education” and will be able to issue verbal warnings, but stronger enforcement action will be referred to the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) and then law enforcement for follow-up checks. 

Failing to comply with the Quarantine Act or with Screening Officers’ instructions could result in fines of up to $750,000 or even jail time.

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