Canada Shuts Down Cuba Travel until May

Hotel in Varadero, Cuba. Photo: Marilena Rotar

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.

These other birds will have most of the Varadero beaches to themselves. Photo: Cheril LeBlanc

Read more news from Cuba on Havana Times.


7 thoughts on “Canada Shuts Down Cuba Travel until May

  • March 16, 2021 at 12:05 pm
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    Stephen, first of all, the government has already admitted that few cases are coming in or have come in via travel. The best thing they did was put in effect the mandatory PCR test less than 72 hours old prior to entry into Canada along with a 14 day quarantine. This is no different than the $2000+ 3 day stay in these mandatory hotel quarantines except people are arriving at these hotels and spending hours upon hours shoulder to shoulder with other travellers from who knows where, some from their flight and some from flights from elsewhere, how is THAT better than people going home and doing the quarantine in their home? If people are not following their quarantine rules then penalize THEM and not all travellers.

    Cuba is very adamant about people following the rules of quarantine, masks, social distancing, curfews, etc. We have medical students that go to the homes or casa particulares of those who have entered to check to see if they have any symptoms, to make sure they’re doing the quarantine. Inter provincial travel is monitored by the military at check points, even travel from the city to outside the city is monitored by military at check points. Fines are hefty and they’re actually given out. There is no 3 strikes and you’re out rule. The rules are made very clear via TV and other forms of media, people know the rules, you get caught the first time not wearing your mask, it’s a 2000 peso fine and although 2000 pesos seems like nothing for us, for your average Cuban it’s alot BUT….follow the rules and you’ll be fine. Here in Canada, people were getting away without doing their quarantines…no penalty, no fine because nobody found out…they couldn’t be trusted to follow the rules and now we ALL have to pay for it.

    According to the Justice Centre, 70% of the cases are elderly in Senior’s homes and those with existing underlying health issues…attention needs to be mainly focused at these points first and other lesser restrictions like the mandatory negative PCR test less than 72 hours old and a 14 day quarantine be given to those entering. Close down your non essential services like bars, eat in establishments…places that people really don’t need to be right now since the majority of the ongoing growth in cases is homegrown, they are coming from within the country. If not even 2% of the cases are coming in from travellers, then why are the restrictions on travellers MUCH heftier than restrictions on those already in country?

    If airlines do not begin to fly soon, watch for foreign airlines to take over our industry and put planes in the sky for us and then there won’t be anything Canada can do other than implement these hotel stays…it will be Canada’s economy that suffers more while foreign airlines make the money. Maybe people don’t NEED to go to sun destinations (as I’ve heard people say) but it’s not up to others to determine what a person requires. Travel will be for those that want to and can afford the $2000 hotel stay upon return.

    As a Canadian, once I can get out of this god forsaken backwards liberal run country and back to my family, I will never return again unless it’s for the funeral of a family member.

  • March 16, 2021 at 11:26 am
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    These new travel restrictions are a farce. If they would get a system in place that works we wouldn’t be going through this era of confusion. The government is playing “whack – a – mole” with their restrictions. They get an update from the Health Board and come up with a new restriction and when that doesn’t seem to be working they get another update and change to a different restriction and it’s been going like this for over a year. Nothing wrong with doing a mandatory quarantine AT HOME and even having to have a negative PCR test no older than 72 hours prior to entry. What I don’t understand is this new $2000 hotel stay. They don’t make you stay there for 14 days, they just make you stay there for 3 days or less while you wait for a PCR test result to come back. If people are doing a PCR test less than 72 hours before returning and it comes back negative why can’t they just do their quarantine at home like people were doing before? Why the new mandatory, $2000 hotel stay? It’s not like that’s working…people are waiting upwards of 3+ hours in lobbies and conference rooms shoulder to shoulder before even getting checked into their room…so much for social distancing. Ones chances of getting it there is much higher than if people just left the airport, got in their vehicle and went straight home. Because of this mandatory $2000 stay, most people aren’t travelling and therefore there’s not enough business for companies to bother putting planes in the air, therefore no flights.

    I am a Canadian living in Cuba and came to Canada in January to visit elderly parents. When the repatriation flights were held in February for 2 weeks, there was so much confusion on what was required to travel, finding flights, etc and I ended up not being able to fly out during those 2 weeks and ended up stranded here. Air Transat had flights available for May 1st after notifying travellers that their flights were suspended until April 30th. I bought a flight for May 8th to go home and then just yesterday had to find out from my husband in Cuba that Air Transat had cancelled all flights until June. I never received an email to let me know there was even a change of ANY kind to my flight but thought I would check their website and sure enough, a little one line advisory saying all flights suspended until June 15th now.

    As for Cuba, I would like to know where Robert Braun received the information about Cuba not allowing flights until June 5th. It would seem strange that they would be allowing flights from the US and other countries but not to Canada when Canada is their largest tourist country. Flights are still going to Cuba, just not flights from Canada and that’s because the Canadian airlines have suspended their flights due to lack of travellers and I blame this on the new 3 day $2000+ hotel bill Canadians get when they return back home. Who is going to pay for an all inclusive package for a week or two, which is what most Canadians purchase, just to get back home and have to pay another $2000+ for a mandatory hotel stay? It’s costing more for this mandatory hotel stay when Canadians get back then it is for them to do a one week all inclusive stay in Cuba in the first place.

  • March 15, 2021 at 11:16 pm
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    As of March 15, 2021 all flights to Cuba have been cancelled by WestJet, Air Canada, air transit. The reason they are stating is lack of pilots, and the Cuban government not allowing them to land, until a minimum of June 5th with WestJet, and later for Air Canada,and Air transit. As of today 15 March Sunwing was still selling tickets, unaware of the cancellations.

  • February 2, 2021 at 6:43 pm
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    Cuba is starving for tourism dollars during the best of times. I can only imagine how tough things must be or will be after the Canadian golden goose is killed. The good news in all of this if you can call it that is that tough times in Cuba may force the hand of the Castro dictatorship.

  • February 2, 2021 at 1:08 am
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    Travel to the Bahamas and throughout our chain of islands has been regulated with by a presentation of a negative pcr before arrival to our Travel.gov.bs site for approval from last October so to include The Bahamas as one of the areas that could have been travelled to without regulated entry is truly a far fetched story!!! Get your facts together before you give other countries a bar name.

  • February 1, 2021 at 6:56 pm
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    This is so stupid the way that these flights ad covid testing are put into place and to say that Covid is being stread because of International travel is Horse S…
    I just returned from Cuba after being away from my family since January 4th 2020. I did not go there for Christmas break. I went to Havana, I had to have a PCR with a Negative result and then I was told that I would have to quarantine for 6 days before going into the general public in Cuba. Mt landlord brought two days of meals for me 3 times within the 6 days. I was visited 2 times by Cuban Medical Team to ensure that I was quarantining.

    When I was to return to Canada, I had to get a PCR test again in Habana before heading to my flight. The test had to be conducted within 72hrs of my flight. I did this and passed it without a problem whereas I was in Cuba for 6 weeks before returning.

    So imagine this now, I get back home in Canada, I have had my PCR test and I am welcomed back to Canada. I them proceed through the terminal for my next flight and I get on a flight with about 140 passengers heading to Halifax. I am potentially the safest person to be sitting next to because of the PCR test that I had which indicated that I was Covid Free but I have to get on this tube with ,as mentioned, 139 others plus the inflight staff, all the airport handling workers and none of them had to get a PCR test before they boarded their flight to be sitting next to me.

    If this is to work, every person flying from any part of Canada who is getting on a flight, should have to get a PCR test before their flight.

    It is sinful and shameful that the Canadian Government can indiscriminately go ahead with a mandatory 3 days in a Hotel after a person returns from visiting family or whoever for
    $ 2,000.00 and forget about all the wasted money that they are giving to people taking the government CERB money while they live in other countries.

    There are so many people who have told me who are in Mexico, Cuba, Dominican Rep for the winter who applied for the CERB online who were asked to answer 5 questions and what their Bank account $ was and Bingo they are now getting 2000.00 to spend in the country that they are vacationing the winter away. What a Joke and then to charge a few of innocent people who just come home after getting a Negative PCR and now they have to get another one at the AirPort in Toronto. This is not right. Its a waste of intelligence when I read what they have put in place. Everyone that I have talked to who thought that this was great and that the Canadian Government are ging what should have been done, now think differently because they did not think of my perspective because they haven’t heard the other side of this story of what is happening. Another stupid side of Government.

  • February 1, 2021 at 3:11 pm
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    All governments world wide are trying to do their best to try to mitigate the constantly mutating virus. Australia and New Zealand implemented very strict restrictions on residents movements within the country and externally and because of those drastic early restrictions their COVID case numbers are very low and manageable. The Aussies clamp down on its citizens began months ago knowing full well that the earlier the metaphorically bitter pill is swallowed the better the final outcome will be for all.

    Canada on the other hand has been very lax in its COVID approach particularly the federal government. This novel Canadian airline flight ban beginning February 01 and ending on April 30 should have been instigated in November.

    The government knows full well Canadians travel in droves in December vacationing in hot spots like Cuba, Jamaica, Dominican Republic, Bahamas, Mexico. The result of not instigating some form of travel ban in December – the Christmas Break for students and others – caused a tremendous increase in COVID cases. Case numbers spiked precipitously through out the country as Canadians returned home from their vacations and travel.

    Moreover, politicians of all stripes from local provincial Ministers to CEO’s of provincial health authorities told constituents not to travel because December is not the time to travel, but what did they do – yes, travel to the Caribbean! Were there any penalties for telling residents one thing and doing the exact opposite? Yes, there were job resignations. However, how about all those other ordinary Canadians who also traveled, came back to Canada, but because of the very lax rules some quarantined others did not, were they not exposed to potential COVID virus in their travels?

    The spiked statistical numbers for December and January country wide seem to indicate, yes they were. So, this time round the federal government with the advice of health authorities are stepping up their health protocols and taking a page from Australia and New Zealand and being very restrictive and proactive in any way possible, like flight bans, to prevent the virus and its mutant variants from entering the country.

    Both countries, Canada and Cuba, are doing their best to try and contain, control, and eventually eliminate the virus from their shores but in order to do so requires citizens to not travel, to be severely punished for non-compliance (in Canada $2,000 dollars for a three day hotel quarantine upon arrival – ouch!!), and basically to just stay at home.

    With these dire directives now in place, let’s hope some concrete beneficial head way can be made against the virus so that some form of normalcy can eventually return for the sake of both Cuba and Canada.

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