As omicron variant spreads, Manitoban couple feel ‘criminalized’ after returning from South Africa


A couple from Brandon, Man., Who are in quarantine at a Toronto hotel after a recent trip to South Africa, say they feel “criminalized” as travelers after the federal government imposed restrictions on 10 African countries due to the presence of a new variant of the coronavirus of concern.

A day after Lennard and Charlotte Skead left for South Africa, where they are both from, the World Health Organization released information about a new variant of the coronavirus of concern called the omicron, or the variant. B.1.1.529, which was discovered in the country.

The couple, who were in South Africa to access medical care, made several attempts soon after arriving to find an airline to bring them back to Canada.

“We were extremely frustrated not to find much [airline tickets] because, of course, there were hundreds of people, hundreds of Canadians who wanted to return. Calls to airlines took hours on hold; it was total chaos, “said Lennard Skead.

On their return trip to Canada, they had to pass six COVID-19 tests, all of which came back negative, before being allowed to re-enter the country.

The Skeads underwent COVID-19 tests at Frankfurt Airport on their way to Toronto, where they are in quarantine at a hotel. Lennard Skead says they were tested six times during their trip. (Submitted by Lennard Skead)

Skead says he just feels grateful that they came back.

“We just got lucky,” he said, although it cost them a lot of money to get back – a total of almost $ 23,500 so far for thefts, COVID testing – 19 and hotels.

In addition, their bags were lost and the food served to them at the hotel constantly contains allergens, which the couple brought to the attention of the staff.

Restrictions to protect Canadians

Health Canada announced on November 26 that foreign nationals who had traveled to seven countries – including South Africa – in the past 14 days would not be allowed to enter Canada, in an effort to slow the spread of the omicron variant in Canada.

Canadian citizens and permanent residents will be allowed to return home, but they must self-quarantine and be tested for COVID-19.

Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos said travel restrictions are another way the federal government is working to protect the health and safety of Canadians. (Adrian Wyld / The Canadian Press)

Four days later, three more nations were added to the list of countries with travel restrictions, which went into effect on Wednesday.

Federal Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos told a press conference on Friday that Canada had put in place strict border measures throughout the pandemic to protect the health and safety of Canadians.

“I believe, and this is what public health officials are telling us, that what we announced last week on Friday [Nov. 26] and Tuesday is the best package right now, given the necessity and the capacity we face when dealing with these issues, ”he said.

Duclos said travelers from all 10 countries should expect to be tested for COVID-19 upon arrival in Canada and be prepared to self-isolate.

“It will be a few days before we can test all of the targeted travelers, but we are rapidly increasing our capacity and testing more and more travelers every day,” he said.

Meanwhile, Skead, who has been in quarantine for three days, believes travelers like him and his wife are being treated poorly.

He says he wants there to be a grace period for travelers who were already abroad when the restrictions were announced.

“My experience of landing at Toronto Pearson [International Airport] up to the hotel made us feel criminalized, ”Skead said.

“It made us feel that we are not welcome in our own country and that we are carriers of some kind of terrible disease that is going to be the end of the world, despite our six negative COVID-19 tests.”


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