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Delays in COVID tests resulting in longer stays at quarantine hotels

ERICK ESPINOSA | posted Thursday, May 6th, 2021

Some travellers who recently arrived in Canada can expect delays in receiving their COVID-19 test results, requiring them to pay for extra nights at a government mandated quarantine hotel.

“I have already spent the three nights in a hotel and fourth night booking is not in my budget,” Tahir told CityNews. “We do not want to break the quarantine rule, so I extended the hotel stay. This is very stressful for me and my family”

Tahir arrived with his wife and son at Pearson Airport on May 1. Upon arrival, his family was tested before heading to their quarantine hotel. He was expecting to return home on May 4, but was disappointed that he and his wife had not yet received their results.

“Switch Health told me on the phone that they are lagging in testing and told me that it may take up to five days.”

Switch Health, a company hired by the Public Health Agency of Canada to conduct the mandatory testing for air travellers upon arrival, confirmed the delay with CityNews.

“There may be a slight delay for a small number of travellers arriving in Toronto” Jordan Paquet, Director of Public Affairs, explained.

“On Sunday, one of our lab partners encountered a problem with some of their processing machines which temporarily decreased the number of tests they could run on that day.”

Paquet said the issue has since been resolved and they are working closely to assist those who have been affected.

“I have called so many times to the Government Authorized Accommodation Information line,” Tahir said.

On day three of his stay, they advised him to continue to wait for his results.

“When I asked who is going to pay for an extra night of hotel, she did not have an answer.”

Switch Health has been trying to keep up with the influx of tweets they have been receiving from frustrated travellers.

“Hey! @SwitchHealthCA we are checking out at 11 today. It’s been 5 days but we still have no result. I am not paying for another night here! Please release the result now!” one person tweeted.

“@SwitchHealthCA I would like to know what happened with our samples. It’s been past 72hrs and we still did not receive our test result. GAA hotel is expensive already. We don’t have the luxury to pay for another night. I contacted you any platform possible but i get no reply,” another tweet read.

The issue not only impacts travellers waiting to leave their hotels, but those isolating in their own homes. Switch Health has also been hired to manage all Day-8 COVID-19 test kits for air travellers who leave the hotel after day three to complete their 14 day quarantine at home.

“Our 14 day quarantine was completed on May 3, however the test kits were still in the sorting facility in Toronto according to the tracking system online” Brenda Hutson-Dean wrote to CityNews.

“We are required by law to remain in quarantine until the we receive a negative test result from the test.”

On day 16 Hutson-Dean received their negative results even though the tracking system indicating the tests were still in a Toronto storage facility.

“I am a bit suspicious of the test results being authentic since both test kits which were received in the sorting facility at different times on May 1 remain in Toronto according to the tracking system available to me.”

Paquet said “samples are sent to a sorting facility or “deconstruction” facility first, which is where they are logged, arranged in a rack, and sent to one of our lab partners for analysis.”

While this helps their team catch any issues early, Paquet said it’s the “last place a person would see it scanned if they were tracking with their Purolator number.”

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