'Screaming and yelling' in the hallways: Red-zoned travellers in Montreal-area hotel quarantine claim neglect
Canadians in hotel quarantine who have come back from so-called red-zoned COVID-19 countries say they're being neglected by the staff who are supposed to take care of them.
"No drinkable water, no healthy food, no access to fresh air, internet keeps disconnecting," one man, Sameh, told CTV News from the Sheraton Hotel in Dorval, where he's being kept despite providing proof of three negative tests. "We are totally isolated from the world... all travellers in the hotel keep screaming and yelling all day."
He arrived in Montreal from Egypt, but like many of the travellers, is now quarantined in a hotel after long forced layovers in other countries -- in his case, two days at an airport in Frankfurt, DE.
Another traveller, Sarah Shoucri, has been in hotel quarantine since returning home from Nigeria on Monday.
Nigeria, like Egypt and numerous other African countries, are on the Government of Canada's list of places to avoid after the new Omicron variant was detected in the region.
Shoucri notes she's double vaccinated against COVID-19 and took a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test before departing Africa.
She adds she took a second test during her layover in Frankfurt, and both tests came back negative.
Now in Montreal, Shoucri says she's awaiting results from a third test before she can finally go home.
But she agreed that the hotel isn't well-equipped to take care of the high number of guests currently in quarantine.
"Dinner was four hours late yesterday [Monday]... We were left nine hours without food. Breakfast came two hours late this morning [Tuesday]," she said. "I'm basically rationing my food in case meals don't come."
At 18 weeks pregnant, H.G., who asked not to give her full name for fear of professional backlash, says she's also stuck in her hotel room without any food or water.
"There was no food on site, there was no water in the rooms, there was no water in the building," she said. "They would not allow us access to vending machines or anything. They said there was absolutely no bottled water."
H.G. was visiting family in Nigeria when travel restrictions quickly changed due to the Omicron variant.
She disapproves of the fact that her basic human needs are not being met during mandatory government health and safety protocol.
Even something as simple, she states, as being lactose intolerant was noted and ignored when her meal finally arrived, accompanied by a small block of cheese.
"A number of us went out into the hallway just yelling for some help, for someone to help us," she says.
"We repeatedly called the front desk to the Canadian Red Cross, but our calls went unanswered... Periodically, they would walk by and apologize because they're short-staffed."
Jean-Sébastien Pariseau, a spokesperson for the Canadian Red Cross, explains the organization is working to increase the number of people on site to help those quarantined.
"There was a big increase in travellers from red zones, so that explains a bit of the rush," he says. "Our job is to support the travellers the best we can. We're not making the rules."
Pariseau says 45 people had to be quarantined as of Friday, with an additional 100 arriving on Monday.
The Red Cross says it currently has seven people on site from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. to take care of the travellers.
"[Monday], the truck delivery was late because of bad weather," he notes, adding there are snacks and refreshments for those who need them.
H.G. points out she still has one more leg to go on her travels before she returns home to Ottawa.
She says she still hasn't received her test result from Monday's PCR test and doesn't know if she'll receive it in time to rebook her next flight home.
"The lack of access to food and water in a government facility is completely egregious," she states, adding this is the second time she's been through a hotel quarantine. "If this was an organized plan, there would be food and water for people."
From Shoucri's perspective, the fiasco is a "complete mismanagement of public funds."
Sameh says he's especially offended that there are security guards posted everywhere, despite the lack of staff to do things like provide food or process people's exits from the hotel.
"Why are security guards everywhere? Are we in prison?" he asked. "Are we criminal? I can't imagine this situation in Canada in 2021."
-- with files from CTV's Selena Ross.