Travel blogger quarantined in Canada after returning home for funeral
- Credit: Samantha Bearman
Samantha Bearman, a travel blogger who grew up in Welwyn Garden City, came home from Canada for her grandfather's funeral and has shared her experience of quarantining in a hotel upon her return.
In January 2021 I had to travel from Toronto, where I was living, to London for my grandfather's funeral, who sadly passed away due to COVID.
I was originally due to travel back to Toronto on March 1, but then on February 22 the Canadian government announced a mandatory quarantine in a hotel upon arrival to Canada. I decided that I was not ready to travel back to Canada because I needed more time to be with my family at this hard time.
As time went on I realised that this government-imposed quarantine was here to last, and if I wanted to return to Canada where my partner lives I would have to bear the cost.
I decided that I would return to Toronto on April 9 and the process began to arrange my travels. The most difficult challenge was figuring out how to leave England during a Stay at Home order.
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I reached out to Transport Secretary Grant Shapps as a member of the Welwyn Hatfield constituency, and someone from his office replied. They advised: "Neither Grant not the government can provide specific travel advice.
"What we can clarify is that if you are ordinarily resident abroad, you are allowed to leave the UK to return home to that country under the current restrictions."
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I started working on gathering as many documents as I could proving that I had spent the last two years living in Canada as a temporary resident with my long-term Canadian boyfriend.
On April 9 I arrived at London Heathrow with a folder full of documents and luggage that I could hardly carry on my own. My dad waited outside in the short-term car park because only travellers were allowed in the airport. He went to get a coffee while he waited to hear if I was allowed to board.
I went to the Air Canada check-in desk and they asked for my negative COVID result, quarantine hotel confirmation and all my documents relating to my exemption for travel. They asked if I had the UK travel declaration form but didn't want to see it.
After much discussion with the Air Canada supervisor and a Canadian Border Officer over the phone, I was approved to check in. I told my dad the good news.
The flight was straightforward and extremely empty - I had a whole row to myself.
Upon arrival in Toronto, I was questioned vigorously again by Customs, Immigration, Public Health and then took the mandatory COVID test before being transferred to my quarantine hotel. My quarantine plan was nearly disapproved by the Public Health Officials because I was going to be quarantining with an essential worker, a doctor. Luckily, I had done my research and knew that if you had a letter of approval from the essential worker, they would allow it.
Before arriving in Canada you are required to book your own quarantine hotel, at your own expense for three nights and four days, while you wait for the results of your COVID test.
The first night in the hotel was a welcome peaceful retreat after my hectic journey across the pond. However, the next day I was bouncing off the walls and ready to be reunited with my Canadian partner.
Even though I disliked the food that was served in my hotel, I was happy that I was allowed to go outside for unsupervised exercise in the car park as frequently as I wanted. Additionally, the room was large, and the bed was comfortable.
Eventually, after three nights in the quarantine hotel, I received my negative test result and I was free to go home where I would have to finish the remainder of my 14-day quarantine.
On day 10, I was required to take another COVID test, further proving my lack of COVID-19.
Interestingly, Canada allows travellers who are entering Canada for compassionate reasons to avoid the mandatory hotel quarantine.
However, those, like me, who had to travel for compassionate reasons in the first place are not exempted.
Samantha is 25 and lived in Welwyn Garden City from the age of three to 18, before moving to Amsterdam for university. She worked as a travel consultant in Canada until June 2020.
Her travel blog is at https://continuousroamer.com/