Canadians are crossing US border in taxis to avoid mandatory hotel quarantine

Canadians in the United States are hiring taxis to cross the border into Canada and avoid mandatory COVID-19 hotel quarantine for air travellers, leading to a boom in transportation services in American border cities.

All travellers coming to Canada must present a negative COVID-19 test taken up to 72 hours before arrival, as well as take another test when they enter the country and spend 14 days in quarantine.

But people flying into Canada must also pay for a mandatory three-night stay at a government-authorised hotel at the start of their quarantine period, which is estimated at more than $961.

By comparison, a taxi trip to the border can cost around $200-$250.

This has led to a surge in calls for taxi and limousine services from Canadians in the US who fly through US airports in states like New York and then cross over.

“They call from six in the morning to 12 at night,” John Arnet, general manager of 716 Limousine in Buffalo, New York, told Reuters. “We’ve had so many requests for border crossings that we’re turning them down.”

Canada enacted strict coronavirus measures at its southern border with the US in March last year, barring entry to most noncitizens and nonpermanent residents.

But the premiers of the provinces of Ontario and Quebec this week urged Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to tighten the rules at the land border into Canada.

According to Public Health Agency of Canada data for February 22 through March 25, 1.5 percent of air passengers tested positive for the virus on arrival compared with 0.3 percent of land travellers.

Canada is currently grappling with a surging third wave of the pandemic, fuelled in part by new variants of the virus, and record infections and hospitalisations continue to rock Ontario, the most populous province.

More than 23,900 people have died due to the coronavirus in Canada to date, according to data from Johns Hopkins University, while over 1.18 million cases have been recorded.