Patients receiving treatment abroad exempt from testing, quarantine rules

Patients who need medical treatment in another country will not have to follow new COVID-19 testing and quarantine rules required for those entering Canada.

Official regulations posted on the federal government website confirm that people receiving “essential medical services” in a foreign country will not have to undergo tests and mandatory quarantines if they have a written statement from a licensed health care practitioner in Canada — and from a practitioner in the country where they are receiving the treatment — affirming that the treatment is essential.

Proof of a negative polymerase chain reaction test — also known as a PCR test — is now required for non-essential travellers crossing into Canada via the land border. 

The test result must be obtained within 72 hours of arriving at the border but essential workers — such as truckers, emergency service providers and those in cross-border communities — are exempt.

After passing through the land border, travellers have to take another test upon arrival and a third test near the end of their 14-day quarantine periods.

That additional layer of testing comes into effect on Feb. 22 — the same day air passengers landing in Canada will be subjected to a new rule requiring them to quarantine in a hotel at their own expense for up to 72 hours while they wait for PCR test results.

The cost of those hotel stays is estimated at about $2,000, but it depends on where the traveller is isolating. Passengers will need to book a hotel in the city in which they first arrive: Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto or Montreal. 

Quarantine presents financial burden

Vancouver resident Kimberly Muise, who travels to Los Angeles every month to take part in an immunotherapy clinical trial to treat Stage 4 cervical cancer, told CBC Chief Political Correspondent Rosemary Barton on Sunday that a mandatory quarantine at the traveller’s expense would be a financial burden.

Reacting to confirmation of the exemptions in a government order-in-council (OIC), Muise said Tuesday she’s glad the government listened to Canadians’ concerns.

“This will make a huge difference in my life and the life of my family as I continue my battle with cancer,” she said in an email to CBC.

“I know that the inclusion of essential medical services and treatment in this OIC will also improve the lives of so many Canadians who require medical treatment outside of Canada and were similarly facing almost unbearable stress in dealing with their essential travel during the pandemic.” 

In an interview Sunday, Public Safety Minister Bill Blair had told Barton that there will be some leeway in determining what constitutes essential travel and that the government will deal appropriately with “compelling and compassionate cases,” such as people receiving medical treatment abroad.

Blair said Muise’s case had been brought to his attention already by her local member of Parliament and he was talking to the Public Health Agency of Canada and British Columbia’s health authority about her situation.

“We want to make sure that that woman can receive her treatment and put in measures that can protect her, protect her family and protect her community, but also deal with the exceptional circumstances that that woman is experiencing in an appropriate way,” he said.

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