Canadians hoping to travel across the country to visit friends and family over Christmas have been dealt a blow from the news that the two largest provinces, Ontario and Quebec, will tighten lockdown rules over the holiday period.
With just a few days to go until Christmas, the two provincial governments have decided to use the Christmas break as an opportunity to tighten restrictions on movement in order to push down rapidly rising COVID-19 case numbers. While some are still choosing to travel, passenger numbers are already down considerably compared to last year as stay-at-home orders and safety concerns deter travelers.
Travel Plans Disrupted By New Lockdown Rules
The governments of Ontario and Quebec have announced new lockdown measures amid a continued surge in COVID-19 cases in both provinces. Ontario has recorded over 2,000 new cases each day for the past week, while Quebec surpassed the 2,000 daily new cases mark for the first time since the pandemic began on Saturday.
Consequently, both provinces are enacting tougher measures to combat the spread of the virus, which will restrict travel within them and between other provinces. In particular, Ontario’s strict lockdown measures, which will come into effect on December 26, will require all residents to stay at home as much as possible and only leave the house for essential reasons.
The authorities are also strongly discouraging inter-provincial travel, including requiring anyone arriving or returning to Ontario after December 26 to self-isolate for 14 days. This will have the potential to cause problems for families planning to travel out of province for the Christmas holidays, as the new rules will come into effect on Boxing Day, meaning that residents would have to return to the province on Christmas Day in order to avoid quarantining.
The new rules will also discourage people from travelling to Ontario to visit family over the Christmas period or the New Year due to the need to quarantine on arrival, disrupting travel plans to Canada’s most populous province. While flights will still be operating between Ontario and other provinces, the surge in cases combined with the new lockdown rules will likely make many Canadians rethink their travel plans over the Christmas period.
Meanwhile in Quebec, while the restrictions are the toughest introduced since the start of the pandemic, travel to the province will not be as badly disrupted. Although non-essential businesses will be closed and office workers are encouraged to work from home during a new lockdown from December 25 to January 11, travel restrictions are not as tough as in neighbouring Ontario. Nevertheless, with cases spiking, people required to stay at home, and most services closed, this could discourage nonetheless discourage travel to the province over Christmas.
One positive for Quebecois is that the province is opening up more outdoor activities despite the lockdown, with up to eight people in the strictest ‘red zone' lockdown areas permitted to meet in outdoor public places for physical activities. This will give fans of winter sports such as skiing and hockey something to look forward to over the holiday despite the imposition of new lockdown rules.
Passenger Numbers Down But Some Sun-Seekers Still Traveling
While the new restrictions in Ontario and Quebec will likely deter some travelers over the Christmas period, passenger numbers across Canada have already been much lower than previous years as people decide to stay home over the holidays. Montreal Trudeau International Airport reported roughly 12,000 passengers passing through on Friday December 18, compared to 62,000 in the Friday before Christmas the year previously.
Meanwhile, Vancouver International Airport said that passenger numbers were down to about 10-15% of usual Christmas traffic, when 100,000 people typically pass through the terminals. This huge drop in passengers numbers reflects that seen throughout the pandemic and highlights continued concerns over safe travel as well as adherence to provincial stay-at-home orders.
Many of those who are choosing to travel over the Christmas period are heading to sunny destinations such as Hawaii, Mexico and Costa Rica. Flights to Cancun from North America have been increased in recent weeks, while maximum hotel occupancy levels in the resort town are being raised to cope with growing demand. Mexico has become a popular destination for travel during the pandemic due to the lack of restrictions on entry combined with well-established safety protocols at resorts.
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Disclaimer: Current travel rules and restrictions can change without notice. The decision to travel is ultimately your responsibility. Contact your consulate and/or local authorities to confirm your nationality’s entry and/or any changes to travel requirements before traveling. Travel Off Path does not endorse traveling against government advisories