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 to help slow the spread of COVID-19.
“Individuals who exhibit symptoms upon arrival in Canada will be forbidden, also, from using public transit to travel to their places of isolation,” said federal Health Minister Patty Hajdu.
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.
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 officials will begin taking down contact information at the border to follow-up with returning travellers.
“But let me emphasize, you should be doing this already,” she told reporters during a briefing on Parliament Hill Wednesday.
Some provinces already have made arrests under their own emergency measures.
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.
Hajdu said the government was looking at all the measures in their tool box, including criminal penalties and also suggested a “hotline” might be established to allow concerned Canadians to report cases of noncompliance.