Over the past two weeks, Canadians have been sternly told by public health officials–and even Prime Minister Justin Trudeau himself–that they are to self-isolate immediately upon returning to Canada.
Now, Canadians who defy orders to go straight home after travel outside of the country–even to stop for just “a few minutes” to grab gas or groceries–will face stiff penalties if caught.
On March 25, Patty Hajdu, Minister of Health, announced an Emergency Order under the Quarantine Act that requires any person entering Canada by air, sea or land to self-isolate for 14 days whether or not they have symptoms of COVID-19.
The order was fully implemented by the Canada Border Services Agency at midnight.
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“The number of cases of COVID-19 is increasing daily—both at home and globally. Earlier this month, we asked travellers entering Canada to self-isolate for 14 days to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in Canada,” Hajdu said in a statement.
“To protect the health and safety of returning Canadians and those who are around them, we are strengthening our measures at the border. Travellers returning to Canada will be subject to a mandatory 14-day self-isolation under the Quarantine Act.”
The government says that people who fail to comply with the order could face a fine of up to $750,000 and/or six months in prison.
The government also says that a person who causes “a risk of imminent death or serious bodily harm to another person while wilfully or recklessly contravening this Act or the regulations” could face a fine of up to $1,000,000 or three years in prison (or both).
The Canadian government says that it will conduct spot checks to verify compliance.
The order will not apply to people who cross the border regularly to ensure the continued flow of goods and services or to those who provide essential services.
Individuals exempt from the order will still need to practice social distancing and self-monitoring and contact their local public health authority if they feel sick.
Individuals displaying symptoms of COVID-19 after arriving in Canada may not use public transportation to travel to their place of isolation. They also may not isolate in a place where they will be in contact with vulnerable people, such as seniors and individuals with underlying health conditions.
All Canadians who experience symptoms of COVID-19–whether they have travelled recently or not–should stay home and call the public health authority in their province or territory to inform them and obtain advice on what to do.