Strict new mandatory isolation rules in effect for returning Canadians

In the huge effort to curb the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, Canada has enacted unprecedented use of the federal Quarantine Act to impose strict new mandatory quarantine rules on travellers returning to Canada. Under this Act, people who ignore the warning will be subject to heavy fines and jail time.

The order, which went into effect early Wednesday, March 25, 2020, means all travellers returning to Canada are now legally required to go into self-isolation for 14 days rather than simply urged to do so.

This new measure was announced early Wednesday by Health Minister Patty Hajdu which would apply to all travellers returning to Canada –  with the exception of ‘essential workers’, according to the federal government.

Starting Thursday morning, all returning Canadians and permanent residents will be informed by the border officers of the new orders telling them that they’re forbidden to stop along the way to their place of isolation.

People who fail to comply with the order can face a fine of up to $750,000 and/or imprisonment for six months.  Hajdu’s department said. If someone jeopardizes another’s life ‘while wilfully or recklessly contravening the act’, the penalties are even greater, $1 million or three years in prison, or both.

Minister Hajdu also said that returning travellers will be barred from taking public transit or placing vulnerable people at risk, and that the government will assist with transportation and accommodation arrangements as needed.

The government of Canada will be conducting spot checks to verify compliance, according to health officials.

Why is the government taking this step?

“We’ve never seen a quarantine order this broad or affecting so many people at once in Canada,”  Steven Hoffman, director of the Global Strategy Lab and a global health law professor at York University said.

Health Minister Patty Hajdu explained that the measure was necessary to send a message about the importance of limiting the spread of COVID-19, which has infected more than 3,700 people in Canada and killed at least 30 people. The order imposed after women in Quebec and Newfoundland and Labrador were arrested for violating the self-isolation at home ordered by the province after travel abroad.

“We are implementing the Quarantine Act so there is no confusion about the need to do so whether you are symptomatic or not.” Minister Hajdu said.

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