VANCOUVER – The latest rules for travelers coming to Canada are puffing feathers among snowbirds wintering south of the border, while those who stayed home wonder why thousands chose to travel during the pandemic.

VANCOUVER – The latest rules for travelers coming to Canada are puffing feathers among snowbirds wintering south of the border, while those who stayed home wonder why thousands chose to travel during the pandemic.

Valorie Crooks, Canadian research professor of health geography, said everyone had access to the same public health information and snowbirds that flocked south “did what they saw fit.”

There’s no travel ban and snowbirds don’t see themselves as vacationers, said Crooks, a professor at Simon Fraser University who has been researching with Snowbird communities in Florida and Arizona for years.

“They consider this part of their life or lifestyle,” she said, noting that snowbirds move for long periods of time and are used to including health considerations in their decisions.

Some snowbirds feel that the government’s late communication while traveling during the pandemic has left them hanging, Crooks said, as stricter requirements come into effect for anyone coming to Canada in the coming days.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said this week that anyone who comes to Canada by land will soon have to present the latest negative COVID-19 test results. Those without the required test results could be fined up to $ 3,000.

Travelers arriving by air must provide evidence of the results of a molecular (PCR) test that has not been older than three days since the last month.

The Canadian Snowbird Association has declined an additional requirement that air travelers take a second test upon arrival and stay in a hotel for about three days to get results, with a potential cost of $ 2,000 each.

In a recent letter to the Federal Minister of Transport, President Karen Huestis wrote that the cost of staying in a hotel is a financial distress for many and that travelers who test negative should be able to quarantine themselves in their homes.

Those who come to Canada by land do not have to be quarantined in a hotel.

The government announced on Friday that the new testing and quarantine measures will begin on February 22nd. Air travelers will be directed to hotels near one of the four Canadian airports that currently accept international flights in Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto and Montreal. Hotels had until Wednesday to apply to be on the incoming passenger list.

The prospect of hotel quarantine made some snowbirds fly back to Canada early, while others take their risk or extend their stay in the south.

Dr. Morley Rubinoff, 71, said he left his apartment in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico for about six weeks earlier this year to avoid what he called “hotel hell”.

The semi-retired dentist said he arrived in Mexico on December 31 and plans to stay until mid-March before returning to Toronto.

Rubinoff said he wore a mask “all the time” and had little contact with anyone in Mexico, which sets him apart from tourists at nearby resorts.

“We’re not the same,” he said, adding that he is a permanent resident of Mexico.

Rubinoff believes the latest travel rules are primarily aimed at preventing short trips by vacationers over the holidays in February and March, while recognizing snowbirds as a separate group.

Denise Dumont, a Canadian who lives full time in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, echoed Rubinoff, saying that snowbirds “don’t behave like normal visitors.”

“I don’t think it’s fair to treat you like a simple visitor on an all-inclusive two-week vacation in Mexico,” said Dumont, editor-in-chief of Le Soleil de la Floride, an online francophone news source in Florida.

Dumont is requesting a hotel stay exemption so that Snowbirds returning to Canada with a negative COVID-19 test and evidence that they have been vaccinated against the disease can go straight home to quarantine.

Toronto-based insurance broker Martin Firestone said it advised against travel during the pandemic, but more than a thousand of its Snowbird customers are overseas and all are against hotel quarantine.

He said about a third of his customers traveled south in November, and hundreds more were spurred on by the availability of the COVID-19 vaccine in Florida to people 65 and over in January, although Firestone is careful not to include its customers “Vaccine tourists” count, “since most of them own property there.

Some Firestone customers are renewing their travel insurance in hopes of returning to Canada after a relaxation of travel rules. However, Canadians may only stay in the US for 182 days per year before filing US taxes or potentially having to get their Canadian health insurance at risk.

“I am very careful to tell all customers who extend, if you went down in November, I have concerns that you are still sitting there in May and June waiting to avoid that three day hotel thing.”

He is also concerned that customers who purchase travel insurance to cover treatment in the event of an illness or injury unrelated to COVID-19 could run into hospitals where resources are running low due to the pandemic Limits are being used.

There are many reasons for Snowbirds’ decision to travel to warmer climates each year, including during the pandemic, Crooks said.

“A lot of people discuss things like improved arthritis symptoms and even changes in the amount of medication needed.”

Others have planned their retirement finances around “snowbirding” and the pandemic hasn’t changed that household reality, she said.

Crooks said she believes Snowbirds are a stand-alone group in need of bespoke messages that address specific concerns related to their return to Canada “with all luggage associated with it,” including pets.

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on February 12, 2021.

This story was produced with financial support from Facebook and the Canadian Press News Fellowship.

Brenna Owen, the Canadian press