For some of U of T’s international students, strict restrictions on entering the country, uncertainty on when travel restrictions may be lifted, and discussions of increased restrictions on international travel make decisions around leaving and returning to Canada difficult.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford has also consistently called for increased travel restrictions to slow down the spread of COVID-19 variants. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau previously claimed that Premier Doug Ford requested a halt to the entry of international students into Canada, though Ford later released a statement clarifying that there was no formal request made to halt the entry of international students.
Some international students have criticized the lack of clarity surrounding the removal of travel restrictions or additional restrictions, saying they cause stress and uncertainty.
International students’ experiences
In an interview with The Varsity, International Students’ Advocacy Network (ISAN) coordinator and founder Anna Carneiro, and head of the ISAN outreach team Pranay Prem expressed their apprehension about possible new travel restrictions. Carneiro and Prem are both international students themselves.
Prem described suggestions of possible new travel restrictions as “offhanded,” especially considering that U of T continues to express intentions to hold in-person classes come September. He noted that international students would need to make significant decisions should this type of policy be put in place, such as booking flights and renting apartments, which as Prem noted, “take time and… money.”
Carneiro added that she had not been able to return home in two years due to the uncertainty of additional restrictions. “My entire life is here… and I would never risk being stuck outside [Canada],” she said.
Sophie Wagle, a fourth-year undergraduate student at U of T studying neuroscience, said in an interview with The Varsity that, following reports of a suggestion from Premier Ford’s to halt the entry of international students, she rushed back to Ontario.
Wagle said that the uncertainty she felt as a result of the proposal was due to the absence of a timeline for when such a measure might be removed. “It just instilled so much panic in me,” said Wagle.
She was surprised at how expensive the mandatory hotel quarantine was. The required hotel stay can cost travellers as much as $1,000, according to estimates by CTV News.
Wagle also challenged the suggestion of additional travel bans as lacking evidence. She argued that her hometown of Macau, China was in fact doing better than Ontario in terms of case numbers. According to Reuters, 51 people total have tested positive for COVID-19 in Macau since the start of the pandemic.
Current travel guidelines
The provincial government requires those arriving by plane to obtain a COVID-19 test within 72 hours of boarding their flight to Canada, and another one after arriving. They are also required to pay for a three-day stay in a hotel while awaiting the results of the COVID-19 test, before quarantining for two weeks. Those arriving via land are able to skip the hotel quarantine, but are still required to quarantine for two weeks upon arrival.
The ban on nonessential travel between Canada and the United States, which has been in effect for over a year, is again up for renewal on June 21. Canada has suggested that the ban could be removed once 75 per cent of Canadians have received at least their first COVID-19 vaccinations and 20 per cent are fully vaccinated, though a clear plan has not yet been released.
Canada has also announced it will lift some quarantine restrictions for fully vaccinated travellers who have been allowed to enter the country starting in July.