/Mandatory quarantines for international travellers kick in at midnight: health minister | CBC News

Mandatory quarantines for international travellers kick in at midnight: health minister | CBC News

All travellers returning to Canada — with the exception of what the federal government is calling “essential workers” — will have to enter a mandatory 14-day quarantine as of midnight to help slow the spread of COVID-19, federal Health Minister Patty Hajdu said this morning

“This new measure will provide the clarity for those re-entering the country about the essential need to self-isolate,” she told the Senate, where she was discussing the Liberal government’s emergency legislation to free up billions to help Canadians weather the COVID-19 crisis.

“Individuals who exhibit symptoms upon arrival in Canada will be forbidden, also, from using public transit to travel to their places of isolation.”

Hajdu said those travellers also will be forbidden to quarantine in a place where they can come into contact with vulnerable people. She said the Public Health Agency of Canada will make alternative arrangements for people in those circumstances.

WATCH: Hajdu says mandatory quarantine for travellers coming

Health Minister Patty Hajdu says all travellers returning to Canada — with the exception of what the federal government is calling “essential workers” — will have to enter a mandatory 14-day quarantine as of midnight to try to slow the spread of COVID-19. 0:39

The government has been pleading with Canadians to self-isolate if they’ve returned from a trip since mid-March, but this move under the Quarantine Act makes it a legal obligation.

Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland said that as of midnight, officials will begin taking down contact information at the border to follow-up with returning travellers. She said detailed information on quarantine enforcement is coming later today.

“But let me emphasize, you should be doing this already,” she told reporters during a briefing on Parliament Hill Wednesday.

“It’s a serious further step.”

RCMP says it’s ready to help

Some provinces already have made arrests under their own emergency measures.

On Friday, Quebec City police arrested a woman who tested positive for the coronavirus after she went out for a walk, violating a quarantine order.

Nova Scotia has given police the power to enforce the province’s Health Protection Act, which bans gatherings of more than five people and allows for fines of up to $1,000 for individuals and $7,500 for business owners.

Quebec City police arrested the woman at around 2 p.m. on Friday on orders from the region’s public health department. (Steve Jolicoeur)

The RCMP said it’s already working with provincial and territorial health authorities and will provide assistance as required.

“This includes assessing law enforcement’s role and response in jurisdictions where provinces or municipalities have declared public health emergencies of states of emergency,” said RCMP spokesperson Catherine Fortin.

She said the federal Quarantine Act doesn’t give police any new powers, but peace officers will play an assistance role in response to requests from screening or quarantine officers.

Hajdu has been signalling tougher measures under the Quarantine Act were on their way for several days now.

The federal Quarantine Act, which was updated in 2005 after the deadly SARS outbreak, gives the federal health minister the power to designate quarantine zones and fine or jail travellers who disobey quarantine requests.

If a designated quarantine officer believes that a traveller has refused to isolate themselves, they can ask a peace officer to arrest the traveller and bring them into quarantine.

On Sunday, Hajdu said the government was looking at all the measures in their tool box, including criminal penalties.

She has also suggested a “hotline” might be established to allow concerned Canadians to report cases of noncompliance.

Freeland said the issue of mandatory quarantines was debated at length during the Monday meeting of the cabinet coronavirus committee.

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