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COVID-19 ruins family’s long-awaited holiday reunion


“It will be heart-breaking to come all the way here and not be able to hug anyone or spend time with anyone. We’ll just have to drive by and wave.”

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It has been two years since Nancy Olaoye has seen her family back in Ottawa.

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Now her 5,300-kilometre journey, six months in the planning, has been reduced to a drive-by visit. Olaoye and her husband arrived in Ottawa on Wednesday only to learn almost everyone they wanted to see was in isolation. It has left Olaoye feeling “gutted.”

“Unfortunately we’re not going to be able to see my side of the family because most of them tested positive for COVID,” said Olaoye, who has lived in London, England, for the past four years.

“It will be heart-breaking to come all the way here and not be able to hug anyone or spend time with anyone,” she said. “We’ll just have to drive by and wave.”

COVID-19 infections have surged in Ottawa in the past week as the highly contagious Omicron variant has spread. Ottawa Public Health reported 199 new cases on Thursday and there were nearly 1,000 active cases in the city.

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Olaoye and her husband flew from London to New York, rushing at the last minute to get PCR tests before departure because of a sudden change in U.S. entry rules. They then travelled to Colombia for four days to attend a friend’s wedding before flying into Toronto.

“That was quite frustrating because, when we got to Canada, it was like we were landing in some strange place. We were randomly selected for a COVID test and we had just been tested 24 hours before,” she said.

“The ‘random’ testing felt a little bit too selective because it looked like the majority of people who were chosen seemed to be ethnic.”

The couple had to isolate in Toronto while they awaited test results — both negative — before continuing on to Ottawa. They’re staying with her husband’s brother in Orléans.

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First Olaoye learned her older sister and her husband in Gatineau had COVID-19.

“Then there was one of my other sisters who I was really excited to see because she has just moved into an apartment by herself. But she tested positive, too. She got her results today,” Olaoye said.

“My nieces, who I haven’t seen in two years and they’re all under eight and they’re growing so fast, now they have COVID, too, so I can’t see them. It’s horrible.”

She still doesn’t know if she’ll be able to see her mother and two other sisters, who live together in Kanata.

“Now we’re just waiting to hear back from my mom. They’re awaiting their results, so we’re crossing our fingers that they don’t have it so that we can at least see them.”

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