On Wednesday, March 25, the federal government of Canada announced the implementation of the Quarantine Act in order to impose mandatory self-isolation of returning travellers for 14 days. The imposed quarantine went into effect midnight on Thursday, March 26 and includes penalties for people choosing to violate the act’s requirements.
This quarantine does not apply to essential service workers, such as truck drivers moving through the border, so as not to impede regular functioning of services.
The Quarantine Act was established in 2005 after the SARS epidemic in order to control the spread of communicable diseases.
The Act provides the Minister of Health authority to designate analysts, quarantine officers, and review officers during the mandated quarantine period in order to facilitate the planning and implementation of the quarantine.
Federal Health Minister Patty Hajdu outlined that these individuals are banned from using any forms of public transit and are not allowed to quarantine with other vulnerable members of the public.
“Earlier this month, we asked all travelers to self-isolate when they returned to Canada. Today, we are making this isolation mandatory under the Quarantine Act to better protect our most vulnerable,” said Hajdu in the press briefing last Wednesday.
Canada Border Service Agency (CBSA) agents are instructing all arriving travelers about the newly imposed regulations. Hajdu said there will be random screenings implemented for these individuals and there will be “significant penalties [for offenders].”
“You have to pretend that you are actually holding the virus and that you may very well transmit it to the person that is closer to you than six feet away,” said Hajdu.
For the rest of the public who have not travelled, self-isolation is still very much required, with exceptions to employees in essential services.
In last Sunday’s press briefing Hajdu said, “Let me be perfectly clear: We will use every measure in our toolbox at the federal level to ensure compliance. The advice is getting stronger and stronger, and with that advice will be coming more and more penalties if people don’t listen.”
While specific fines and penalties have not yet been announced, the Quarantine Act allows for a maximum fine of $1 million and/or up to 3 years in prison.
This sentiment was echoed by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau during last Monday’s press briefing.
“Enough is enough. Go home and stay home. This is what we all need to be doing and we’re going to make sure this happens,” said Trudeau.
After the implementation of the Quarantine Act, Trudeau reminded Canadians of the penalties they could face if they don’t comply with the social distancing regulations.
“Unfortunately, there are a number of people who have not been following guidelines. We are implementing the Quarantine Act to keep all Canadians safe. If you do not comply with these instructions, you could face serious fines and even prison time,” said Trudeau during last Thursday’s press briefing.
Alberta Premier Jason Kenney has also implemented additional provincial penalties with steep fines for people not following physical distancing and isolation protocol.