By Circles Robinson
HAVANA TIMES – Starting today, Canada closes travel to Cuba through at least the end of April. The island’s largest tourist market takes stiff action to prevent the spread of Covid-19. Flights to Mexico are also suspended for the same period.
Cuba itself announced Saturday a drastic cut in flights from numerous countries including the USA, Mexico, Spain and Panama. However, in that statement the island’s authorities hadn’t mentioned Canada.
Hungry for tourist dollars the government’s tourist industry was giving special preference to attract Canadians. This included a free PCR test upon arrival, while other visitors must pay for theirs.
Canadian tourists were the first visitors allowed into the island when some airports opened last September. Now the hope to receive the snowbirds is shot for Cuba’s high tourist season. Easter vacation travel is also out.
PM Trudeau made the announcement
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the changes in Ottawa on Friday, reported the Globe and Mail. He said the new rules are meant to deter sunseekers from flying south and to slow the spread of more-transmissible variants of the coronavirus.
Trudeau said WestJet Airlines Ltd., Air Canada, Sunwing Airlines Inc. and Transat AT Inc. all agreed to cancel flights to the popular winter getaways until April 30. The airlines will coordinate return flights for travelers who are abroad now, he said.
Cuban destinations with cancelled flights include the highly popular spots of Varadero and Cayo Coco.
The combination of the Canadian and Cuban government’s flight cancellations delivers a one-two punch to the ailing airline and tourist industries.
The Globe and Mail noted that people returning to Canada from non-essential trips abroad will soon have to pay for a COVID-19 test upon arrival at the airport and a three-day stay at a quarantine hotel while awaiting the result. They are already required to pay for a test before boarding the airplane that must be negative and taken within three days of travel.
The Canadian government must still announce when the new rules take effect, notes the Globe and Mail. However, it estimates the hotel stay will cost more than $2,000 Canadian dollars ($1,565 USD) to cover accommodation, food, security and infection prevention and control measures. This is “not just your regular stay at a hotel,” Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam said on Friday.