Vancouver man stranded in Toronto after travelling during COVID-19 vaccine mandate switch

By Mark McAllister and Meredith Bond

A Vancouver man says he has been stranded in Toronto for the last week after his layover at Pearson Airport, as the COVID-19 vaccine mandates for travel came into effect, meant he could not board his connecting flight.

Kuoth Jock-Kong was travelling from Vancouver to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia with a layover in Toronto on Nov. 29. He landed just around 2 a.m. and his flight from Toronto to Addis Ababa was scheduled for Nov. 30 just after 10 a.m.

Jock-Kong claims he was unaware he would have to get his bags from the baggage claim and go through security again to get on his next flight.

Once he got his bags and attempted to check into his second flight, Jock-Kong said he was told he was not able to board due to the COVID-19 vaccine mandate that had gone into effect at exactly 3:01 a.m.

The 20-year-old is not vaccinated against COVID-19 for personal reasons.

Since that day, he says he’s been stuck at the airport because not only can he not board a flight to Ethiopia, he can’t get on a plane or train to head back to Vancouver.

Jock-Kong says he was under the impression if he had started his trip on Nov. 29, he would not be affected by the mandate and was unaware that he would have to leave security to go get his bags.

The federal government requires all those who are 12-years-old or older to be fully vaccinated in order to board domestic and international flights leaving from most passenger airports including Pearson.

To enter Ethiopia, travelers only need a negative PCR COVID-19 test before boarding a flight to the country.

Transport Canada tells CityNews in a statement that all Canadians should have had ample time to make arrangements to get vaccinated prior to the November 30 deadline at which time there would be very limited exceptions to COVID-19 vaccine requirements and the requirement would be strictly enforced.

Transport Canada did not comment on Jock-Kong’s specific situation, neither did the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) who said they were only responsible for those coming into Canada, not those who want to leave.

Global Affairs Canada directed CityNews to PHAC and did not comment on the matter.

An Ethiopian Airlines employee at Pearson Airport told CityNews it was a government issue and had nothing to do with the airline, but said her office would be looking into the situation.

“The only thing I hope to gain is perhaps some sympathy … I was only about six hours behind the mandate. Six hours. If I came six hours earlier, I would’ve been out of here. We wouldn’t even be talking here right now,” said Jock-Kong.

Jock-Kong said in an interview on Dec. 4 that he had been told his only option so far is to get vaccinated and wait the 14 days afterward to be able to fly. He added no matter what, he will not be getting vaccinated.

“I stand 10 toes down on what I believe. And if they don’t want to meet me anywhere in the middle ground, so be it, I will stay at the airport until they kick me out. And if they kick me out, I’ll go out into the streets with my bags,” said Jock-Kong.

During his time at Pearson’s Terminal 1, he made a number of attempts to speak with airline representatives and customer service to make his case but had no luck.

On Dec. 6, he said security kicked him out of the airport and he is now staying in a hotel until he can figure out a way to get back to Vancouver.


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