Canada has imposed a mandatory 14-day quarantine on travellers returning from abroad because too many people have not been following public health guidelines to self-isolate, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Thursday.
Trudeau called the decision by some Canadians to ignore the request to self-isolate “not just disappointing, but dangerous.”
“I’ve been very clear on this. The premiers, (Canada’s chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam) and public health officials have all been very clear on this,” said Trudeau. “If you have just returned from abroad, you have to go home and stay home for 14 days.
“In response to the fact that too many travellers are still not self-isolating upon returning to Canada, we’re taking greater action… We are implementing the Quarantine Act to keep all Canadians safe.”
Those who don’t comply with the mandatory 14-day quarantine could face fines and jail time, said Trudeau.
The measure, first announced Wednesday in Canada’s Senate by federal Health Minister Patty Hadju, makes it mandatory for anyone entering Canada to self-isolate for 14 days, and allows for fines and jail time if people don’t comply.
It’s the latest attempt by the federal government to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, as cases across the country continue to rise.
#COVID19: Under the new Order for MANDATORY #SelfIsolation that will be fully implemented by #CBSA at ports of entry by midnight tonight, anyone entering Canada by air, land or marine must declare to a CBSA border services officer: pic.twitter.com/TSO9HvGdWB— Canada Border Services Agency (@CanBorder) March 26, 2020
People such as health care workers and truck drivers, whose work is deemed essential, are exempt from the new rule.
The mandatory quarantine came into effect midnight Wednesday.
Anyone coming into the country at ports of entry will be asked to make a declaration that they acknowledge they need to self-isolate, said Canada Border Services Agency on Twitter.
In response to a reporter’s question, Trudeau said the mandatory quarantine wasn’t implemented earlier because “the vast majority” of Canadians have been following health officials’ guidelines.
But because some “unfortunately” were not, the government had to take the next step of bringing in the Quarantine Act, said Trudeau.
As of Thursday morning, Canada has 3,854 presumptive and confirmed cases of COVID-19, including 13 repatriated Canadians at CFB Trenton. Thirty-seven people across the country have died.
B.C. has reported 14 coronavirus-related deaths – the highest number across Canada – the majority of which are linked to the outbreak at the Lynn Valley Care Centre in North Vancouver.
The Quarantine Act, which gives the federal health minister the power to order travellers to stay home and the tools to enforce that, was revamped in 2005 following the SARS outbreak.
Designated screening and quarantine officers may fine or arrest travellers who refuse to be isolated or comply with any measures imposed under the act.
Under the act, those who fail to comply with the order can face a fine up to $750,000 and jail for six months, according to the federal government.
Those who cause a risk of death or serious bodily harm to another person while willfully contravening the act or its regulations can face jail for up to three years or a fine of up to $1 million.
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