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British Canadians frustrated by exclusion from U.K.’s new quarantine exemptions

English and Scottish governments did not provide a reason for why Canada was not included
Travellers arrive at Heathrow Airport in London, Sunday, Jan. 17, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Frank Augstein

Many British Canadians are frustrated after being snubbed by a new plan to ease quarantine restrictions for entry to England and Scotland.

The United Kingdom countries announced Wednesday that travellers who were fully vaccinated in the United States or Europe will not have to quarantine upon arrival as of Monday.

Shaun Campbell said he came to Canada as a student from the U.K. in February 2020 and has not been able to visit his family since — even when his uncle died after he was infected with COVID-19 last year.

He has written to government officials including English Transport Secretary Grant Shapps to express his “extreme disappointment” over the decision to exclude travellers from Canada from the new changes.

“You can imagine how angry and upset I am,” he wrote.

“(Since March 2020) I have had to make do with video calls to see my family. I’ve had to deal with my Mum (an NHS worker working with elderly COVID patients) catching COVID and infecting the whole household, all via video calls.”

The English and Scottish governments did not provide a reason for why Canada was not included in the new quarantine exceptions.

Under the current rules, travellers from Canada to the U.K. must take a COVID-19 test no more than three days before their arrival, book and pay for two other tests after they arrive and quarantine in the place they are staying for 10 days.

Meanwhile, travellers from the United States and Europe will still have to take a COVID-19 test before they arrive and another one after their arrival, but they don’t have to quarantine after the changes take place next week.

Campbell said the new changes are “unfair” for him and others who reside in Canada and want to visit their families in the U.K. without restrictions.

In recent weeks, Canada has reported much lower new COVID-19 case counts than the U.S., the U.K. and many European countries.

Canada also has a higher vaccination rate than the European Union and has surpassed the United States on the percentage of the population that has received two doses.

Tom Walsh, a spokesman for the U.K. High Commission in Ottawa, says the British government is taking a “phased approach” to easing travel restrictions but he didn’t directly answer a question on why Canada was not included in the new changes.

“The (U.K.) Government is looking to make similar announcements on quarantine restrictions when the time is right,” Walsh said in an email Thursday.

Paul Meade, the editor of The British Canadian Newspaper, which serves the British community in Canada, said the decision seemed to be based on political and economic grounds, not on science.

“Britain can’t go another August without tourists from Europe and (the United States),” he wrote in an email.

“There has been so much pressure from the airlines and the U.K. tourism industry in general. The government had to act, but it’s not really about the science. It’s about which countries can give the biggest and quickest boost to a struggling tourism industry.”

He said there are fewer tourists from Canada who would travel to the U.K. compared to the United States and Europe if travel restrictions are lifted.

“That’s why Canada has been left out, it doesn’t offer the big tourist numbers, and London needs tourists desperately,” he said.

Meade said his readers are upset by the government’s decision.

“Many have family in the U.K. that they haven’t been able to visit for nearly two years,” he said.

“It isn’t right. It isn’t backed by science. It’s just about tourism money.”

Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland said the Canadian government respects the sovereignty of the U.K. and its right to make decisions on travel restrictions.

Freeland didn’t say whether the British government has provided any explanation for why Canadian travellers were not included in the new quarantine exemptions and whether Ottawa is pursuing diplomatic efforts to change that.

Non-essential travellers from the United Kingdom are not currently permitted to enter Canada. On Sept. 7, those who are fully vaccinated will be allowed entry.

Global Affairs Canada and the Governor General didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

British Canadians make a large segment of the Canada’s population. In the 2016 census, 32.5 per cent of the Canadian population reported having some ancestry from the British Isles with 6.3 million people of English origin, 4.8 million of Scottish origin and 4.6 of Irish origin.

—Maan Alhmidi, The Canadian Press

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