#CanadaFilter: It’s time to come home
May 23, 2020 2:57 AM   Subscribe

After just over 8 long months working in Central Africa, I’m finally able to fly home to Canada next week. I know things are being handled a lot differently (read stricter) there compared to here in Congo, but I have not stayed on top of the news, so I want to know what to be prepared for. Links or personal experiences appreciated.

First off, I am generally aware of the quarantine. I have a mask to wear on the flight. I am flying into Toronto Pearson, and my brother will be coming to pick me up. I’ll stay the 2 weeks (and probably a bit longer) at their house before heading to Montreal where I’m technically a resident. They’ve stocked up on groceries, and will be isolating with me. I understand that I am not allowed to leave, and will receive check-up calls.
But beyond that, I don’t know what the rest of the laws and realities are, and I have a lot of questions.

Are airlines still serving food on the long-haul flights? My routing is Kinshasa-Addis-Frankfurt-Toronto. Is duty free likely to be open in the different airports? What about restaurants? Am I allowed to visit the Tim Hortons at the Toronto airport (I’ve been dreaming of it for the last 8 months!)

Can I order no-contact restaurant delivery? If I order something from, say, Amazon , can my brother sign for the package? Can I sit on my front porch (which is maybe 20 meters from the sidewalk)?

After Isolation:
Are masks still required in certain places, either by law, or by the business’ choice? Are some cafés or restaurants open yet? Are people still lining up outside grocery stores? Is toilet paper still impossible to get? Can I travel to Montreal (crossing provincial border)? Am I legally allowed to rent an AirBnB?

I know that people have a lot of incredibly strong opinions on what people should or shouldn’t be doing, but I really want to be clear that I’m looking for facts about laws and restrictions in place, and realities of what is physically possible, and that’s it. I’m not asking what you yourself would do, or what you feel is safe. I’ll make my own choices regarding the ‘’extras’’, I just don’t want to get arrested or fined. And please no ‘’You really shouldn’t come home, it’s not safe and it’s selfish’’. I’m exhausted and burnt-out and would be sent home on (mental health) medical evacuation if it weren’t for the fact that my contract also happens to be done. Please be kind.

Thanks in advance
posted by hasna to Travel & Transportation (9 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I can answer some of these for Ontario. Quebec's different (and Montreal has different restrictions than Quebec as a whole). I'm not sure about the airline/travel stuff except that I think all food services (Timmies et al) are closed. You can order Tim Hortons via Uber Eats for some reason, though.

Can I order no-contact restaurant delivery? Yes.

If I order something from, say, Amazon , can my brother sign for the package? All deliveries right now are no contact, no one is signing for anything.

Can I sit on my front porch (which is maybe 20 meters from the sidewalk)? This one I'm not sure about. Probably? I don't know if the post-travel quarantine rules are that detailed.

Are masks still required in certain places, either by law, or by the business’ choice? A few stores are only just starting to require them. Off the top of my head, T&T and Costco.

Are some cafés or restaurants open yet? Some are. Takeout only.

Are people still lining up outside grocery stores? Yes

Is toilet paper still impossible to get? No. Some things are transiently unavailable in stores until they restock, so you have to get lucky: flour, yeast, cleaning supplies (Lysol products in particular).

Can I travel to Montreal (crossing provincial border)? I believe all Ontario-Quebec border restrictions have been lifted.

Am I legally allowed to rent an AirBnB? I believe the rule is "only if you need it", i.e. for housing.
posted by quaking fajita at 4:04 AM on May 23 [1 favorite]

https://covid-19.ontario.ca/index.html looks like the Ontario health advice- if I read the situation correctly Canada is like Australia, in that there are overall principles but province specific regulations. Here's the bit about travel: https://www.ontario.ca/page/covid-19-stop-spread#section-5

Food on the way- I'm thinking you're allowed to eat in transit, but once you get to Canada, I don't think stopping off at Tim Hortons is acceptable- here in Australia it's very much 'go straight to quarantine, do not pass go, do not collect 200$' - I would maybe ask your brother to have it in hand when you get off the plane!

The two weeks of quarantine will be a bit different to life after. When I had my covid test the recommended that I sleep in a different room and use a different bathroom to my partner, and keep a mask on in common spaces- he said a big NOPE to that and said he would take the risk. I mention this to check what your brother and his wife are envisioning- are you quarantining/isolating from them as well, or are they accepting the risk that you might have it and quarantining with you? I know there are people who have waited out the two weeks before hugging family members, for instance, so hopefully you are on the same page about that!
posted by freethefeet at 4:29 AM on May 23

I've really appreciated the ABC live blog (Australia) for updating me on what is and isn't allowed at the moment, and it looks like the CBC has a similar service: here's Toronto at a glance and Quebec.

Also, on "the rules" - coming home has always been something that has been 'allowed' as far as I can tell in many jurisdictions. You are allowed to travel to come home, don't let anyone give you grief over that.
posted by freethefeet at 4:50 AM on May 23 [2 favorites]

Hey hasna, glad to know you are on your way home.

Fellow Ontarian here, just confirming what quaking fajita wrote above. I haven't signed for a package since February, and any package that legally requires a signature has to be picked up in person at Canada post. My neighborhood grocery store doesn't require masks, but more people are wearing them each time I go. I purchased some through Etsy from a seller in Alberta and they arrived in the mail in just a few days.

You can travel to Montreal once your quarantine is over, shouldn't be an issue unless things take a dramatic turn for the worse. My wife had to do a roundtrip roadtrip Ottawa/Montreal during the pandemic (epidemiologist), and had no issue. The only blockade was at Ottawa/Gatineau, and even that has been lifted as of this week.

As an aside, you mention being on the verge of a mental health evacuation. If you are in need of a therapist who specializes in the mental health of humanitarian aid workers, I have a few colleagues I could recommend who have worked in the field themselves (as MHPSS specialists) and now have private practices, one of them is a Francophone. Feel free to send me a memail.

You've done all you can do, now it's time to take care of yourself. Wishing you a safe journey.
posted by philotes at 5:13 AM on May 23 [3 favorites]

From Toronto Pearson:
You must go directly to your place of quarantine, without stopping anywhere, and stay there for 14 days
do not go to school, work or other public areas and community settings

Some airports have lists of what's still open. Toronto Pearson doesn't seem to, but in general western airports seem to have
  • newspaper stands, book stores, and quick marts still open,
  • fast food still open but may have reduced hours or reduced menu,
  • most everything else closed.
Here is the retailer list for Frankfurt.
posted by anaelith at 5:53 AM on May 23

I cant help you with the travel aspects, but life in Canada I can. However, I am assuming BC / Vancouver is similar to Toronto / Montreal, and that might be a false assumption. Covid responses are being handled on a provincial basis, and somehow (well - I know how, look up Bonnie Henry) BC did something right while Ontario / Quebec is struggling a bit. That said, we're still pretty locked down here in BC too - Phase 2 just started.

Amazon is almost back to normal, with contactless delivery. In March things were painful; things took weeks to deliver. Now I'm getting 2 deliveries a day of random crap I really dont need-need, all just left at my door. 90% of the time they dont even ring the doorbell - there's zero human contact at least if you have an external door. if it wasn't for the amazon app notification Id never know when they were here.

Grocery stores lineups - some, yes but not many. But at least here delivery slots are opening up. When this started you couldn't get delivery, and it was a real problem for people who really were quarantined and could not leave their house.. Now there's usually a next-day window open for anyone - not my first choice timeslot usually, but getting a delivery is possible. They're all contactless - mine calls then drops the groceries off and leaves. I wave from the window. You may still not be able to get the high-demand items like Chlorx wipes or flour as easily as before - it's possible, just a little more difficult

Food delivery - except for the fact my SkipTheDishes delivery guy apparently likes to deliver my food my neighbour 2 doors down, it's also contactless. If you have an external door, they'll just drop it off and ring the bell or whatever. No human contact required.

A lot of restaurants have delivery (Skip/Uber/etc) or take out options. Not all. BC restaurants are starting to open up, but a quick google says Ontario isn't quite yet. If you thought the lineup at the drive thru window at Timmies was long before covid....

I'm almost positive you can sit on your porch 20m from the sidewalk. Thats 60 feet. If it was 10-20 I'd say maybe you dont want to, but my neighbours front yard cant be much more than 60 feet from my tiny back yard and I literally never thought about not being out there... and I'm being extremely cautious managing my covid response and had my own 14 day quarantine in the beginning. Fresh air is vital as well!

Airbnb - A friend just rented one last weekend, a cabin in a very secluded area. I wont get into the politics of whether or not you should, but it's possible.
posted by cgg at 7:10 AM on May 23

Airbnb - A friend just rented one last weekend, a cabin in a very secluded area. I wont get into the politics of whether or not you should, but it's possible.

Ontario in particular banned Airbnb in April except in cases of essential housing need. Practically speaking I believe a lot of them are still operating, but in terms of the rules vacation rentals are out.
posted by quaking fajita at 7:53 AM on May 23

Quebec here (though not Montreal - things may be a bit different there as it's the hardest hit city in Canada right now).

Most of your questions have been answered already but I can confirm some. Contactless delivery yes, restaurants no. Tim Hortons is currently open for drivethrough (only, I think) so your brother could grab some for you on the way to get you but don't do it on the way home.

None of my amazon deliveries have demanded signatures, though one delivery person waited around awhile and rang my doorbell several times before finally leaving the package despite my note on the door saying to just ring and leave it there.

In general people are becoming much less strict about following the lockdown - I see very few masks and lots of people socializing, much more than a few weeks ago. YMMV in other cities though.

Most stores do not require masks but a few do (especially the less essential stores that are just now starting to reopen in ON, not sure about QC since I haven't been out much recently). You can order a cloth mask online from many places. Most places are limiting customers inside which means lines, though there's less of that recently as people get less cautious.

Supplies are iffy depending on the store and shopping time. Like, you can get most things now except yeast, but you might have to store-hop a few times to get some things (not the best idea). I would strongly recommend bringing some basic stuff like TP with you from toronto in case you can't restock right away.

I'm not sure what the current rules are but for a while they were saying people coming from another province had to do a 2-week quarantine, so look up whether you'll need to do that after returning home from Toronto. Travel between ON and QC is allowed now though.

You should be aware that there are currently various restrictions for visiting certain outdoor spaces like some parks, trails, etc and there are large fines for breaking the rules. The rules are constantly changing so look them up on your city website right before you arrive to confirm.

Welcome back!
posted by randomnity at 8:47 AM on May 23

Oh and in case you haven't heard, the Loblaws chain (including maxi, provigo etc) has free curbside pickup now, so once you're done with the official cant-leave-home quarantine and back in Montreal that's a pretty safe option for groceries. Wait times for pickup are currently only a day or two here (down from almost a week back in April), though it may be longer in Montreal.
posted by randomnity at 9:01 AM on May 23

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