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Canadians returning from abroad now face mandatory 14-day federal quarantine order

Health Minister Patty Hajdu announced Wednesday that the previous directive from the federal government for travellers to self-isolate for 14 days to prevent the spread of COVID-19 will become mandatory. - Reuters

New measures will be enforced and those who break them will be penalized


 

Ottawa — Canadians returning from abroad will now face a mandatory two-week quarantine period.

Health Minister Patty Hajdu announced Wednesday that the previous directive from the federal government for travellers to self-isolate for 14 days to prevent the spread of COVID-19 will become mandatory.

This means anyone returning to Canada will not be allowed to leave their house or have visitors for a two-week period, whether or not they have symptoms.

The new legal obligations will be in place as of 12 a.m. Thursday, and will not apply retroactively. The measures will apply to anyone returning from the U.S. as well, but essential workers will not be affected.


“It will no longer be strongly recommended they quarantine for 14 days. It will be mandatory.” —  Health Minister Patty Hajdu


Hajdu is using her powers under the federal Quarantine Act to impose the new requirements.

“It will no longer be strongly recommended they quarantine for 14 days. It will be mandatory. They will be given an order in French and English depending on their language of choice by the Canadian Border Services Agency, who will tell them of the requirements under their order to remain isolated, to not have stops along the way,” Hajdu told reporters Wednesday.

“We have heard a number of reports of Canadians from individual citizens and others and through other means that people are not understanding that this 14 days is absolutely essential to protect the health of their fellow Canadians and their loved ones and their community. So there is perfect clarity around the need to isolate when Canadians come back from abroad, whether it’s from the U.S.A. or other international destinations, we are implementing the Quarantine Act so there is no confusion about the need to do so whether you are symptomatic or not.”

Hajdu said the government is also ordering returning passengers to not take public transit to return to their homes, and will facilitate transportation for people who don’t have private transportation options.

Finally, the federal government will ensure travellers who are living with vulnerable people, such as elderly people or others who fit the criteria of being high-risk, will have alternative places to stay if they have no other options, and Hajdu said the government already has arrangements with a variety of different hotels and facilities near the four Canadian airports where international flights are permitted to land.

Punitive measures unclear


Penalties for breaking a quarantine order by riding public transit or engaging in other public activities are unclear at this time. - Larry Wong
Penalties for breaking a quarantine order by riding public transit or engaging in other public activities are unclear at this time. - Larry Wong

Hajdu said there will be followup for all travellers to make sure they are staying isolated and significant penalties for anyone who violates the quarantine order.

On Wednesday. Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland fielded questions from reporters about how the new order would be enforced and what the penalties would look like, but she did not provide details, only saying there will be mechanisms in place to enforce the quarantine and more information will be forthcoming.

Only Canadian citizens, permanent residents and their immediate family members are allowed to enter Canada — last week the federal government closed borders to foreign nationals of all countries, including the U.S.

As of Wednesday afternoon, there were more than 420,000 cases of COVID-19 affecting every country around the world. In Canada, there were 3,197 cases and 27 deaths.

Deputy chief public health officer Dr. Howard Njoo said Canada has tested more than 142,000 people, a 20,000 increase in one day.

Public-health officials are concerned that Canada now has more COVID-19 cases due to community spread than cases linked to travel, but Njoo said it’s still important to reduce travel-related cases as more Canadians return from abroad.

For Canadians who have not left the country, hand-washing and physical distancing are the best ways to avoid spread: staying home, not gathering in groups, keeping a physical distance of at least two metres from other people and avoiding crowded places.


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