Federal government makes self-isolation for travellers mandatory

Coronavirus outbreak:

Health Minister Patty Hajdu said the government is invoking the Quarantine Act to force returning travellers to self-isolate.

"This new measure will provide the clarity for those re-entering the country about the essential need to self-isolate", she said in the Senate on March 25.

"Mandatory measures at this point are absolutely required", said McArthur.

Additionally, those displaying symptoms of coronavirus after arriving in Canada "may not use public transportation to travel to their place of isolation".

"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.

Travellers arriving at one of the four global airports and connecting onwards will be forced to isolate for 14 days in the city they land in, the health minister said.

The federal government announced Wednesday that anyone coming back to Canada from another country must self-isolate for 14 days upon their return. "At the same time, all of us are going to be and feel safer with mandatory quarantines for anyone entering Canada".

Freeland said people who have already returned should be self-isolating at home already, noting it is critical to protect the health of Canadians and ultimately to ensure that the country's economic rebound comes more quickly.

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Freeland said the issue had been debated "at length" during the coronavirus cabinet committee meeting on Monday night.

Hajdu warned that those who do not obey government-imposed COVID-19 quarantine restrictions would face "significant penalties".

"It will get worse before it gets better", she added.

The move was made under the Quarantine Act. Additionally, if a person causes a risk of imminent death or serious bodily harm to another person while wilfully or recklessly contravening the regulations, they could be subject to a fine of up to $1,000,000 or to imprisonment of up to three years, or to both.

Worldwide travel - initially from China, then Iran and South Korea, then Europe and now the United States - has continued to be a significant vector for the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Earlier this month, the Canadian government followed the lead of other countries and closed their borders to foreign visitors.

And Canada's border with the USA, while closed to non-essential travel, is still open to trade and commerce, as well as travel for cross-border workers or students with visas.

Asked about the possibility of more stringent screening measures at the border, Freeland called the situation "fluid and evolving" and said federal officials are monitoring the situation around the world "by the hour".

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