BANFF – The Banff YWCA’s COVID-19 isolation facility reached capacity last week with travellers returning to Canada ahead of the federal government’s roll out of tougher travel restrictions.
Silvio Adamo, the Town of Banff’s director of emergency management, said eight people – none of whom were showing any COVID-19 symptoms – are currently housed at the Y’s isolation facility.
“All of these folks are asymptomatic travellers that have recently returned to Canada, I believe, to try to stay ahead of the Feb. 22 restrictions that came into effect,” he said during a council meeting on Monday (Feb. 22).
“Our emergency coordination centre team is on standby to facilitate the use of the Banff Centre isolation facility if needed, as we will not see any vacancies in the Y until March 1.”
As of Feb. 22, most travellers flying into Canadian airports are now required to self-isolate in a government-approved hotel for three days, at their own expense.
In addition, those arriving by plane or at land crossings at the Canada-U.S. border must provide proof of a negative tests prior to arrival. They must also take a test upon arrival and again at the end of the 14-day quarantine.
Finally, all travellers, whether arriving by land or air, will be required to submit their travel and contact information, including a suitable quarantine plan, electronically via ArriveCAN before crossing the border or boarding a flight.
Federal health officials say that Canada continues to detect a rising number of variant strains of COVID-19 from the United Kingdom and South Africa, which is why additional testing and quarantine measures are needed.
“Now is not the time to travel, so please cancel any plans you might have,” said federal Health Minister Patty Hajdu.
Banff town Councillor Chip Olver expressed concerns about the growing number of COVID-19 variant cases in Alberta, which are now at a total of 301 – 294 cases are the U.K. variant and seven are the South African variant.
“The cases we have in isolation at the Y, which are travellers who have come back, we don’t know if test results have indicated any variants?” Coun. Olver questioned.
Adamo replied that the emergency coordination centre has no information on that.
“Typically, if they are just returning and in their mandatory 14-day isolation, they are actually not even required to have a COVID test unless they were symptomatic and were identified as a close contact,” he said.
That said, Adamo said that a medical officer of health for this region in a previous meeting indicated that the Town of Banff would be notified if a COVID-19 variant was identified in this region.
“We’re hoping there would be a head’s up so we can react if necessary,” he said.
As of Feb. 23, there were three active COVID-19 cases in Banff and one in neighbouring Canmore. In the MD of Bighorn, which includes Harvie Heights, Lac Des Arcs, Exshaw and part of Stoney Nakoda, had 15 active cases.