Home quarantine checks in Canada


Police officers have made nearly 2,200 home visits to ensure Canadians are complying with the self-isolation rule when they cross back into the country. This is a small percentage of over one million travellers who have returned home since the start of the pandemic.

The new statistics are coming out as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau hints at new measures to track travellers who cross into Canada once border restrictions start to ease.

Canadians who cross back into the country now are must by law to self-isolate for 14 days; it doesn’t matter whether they have symptoms of COVID-19 or not. That order came into effect in late March as global cases of COVID-19 were climbing rapidly.

Anyone arriving in Canada by air or land must complete a contact tracing form. Then the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) will enforce the 14-day quarantine requirement.

Some returning Canadians might violate quarantine rules

The Canada Border Services Agency says it alerts PHAC if it suspects a returning traveller won’t comply.

The health agency then flags the RCMP’s national operations centre if it needs help enforcing the act. The RCMP has been playing a coordinating role with local police during the pandemic.

As of May 13, According the Public Health Agency of Canada, it had passed on to the RCMP 2,198 referrals for “physical verification” of quarantine compliance. RCMP didn’t conduct all of the verification visits; some were handed off to other police services.

PHAC says there have been no arrests under the Quarantine Act since the pandemic restrictions bega. Only one person in Richmond, B.C. was fined $1,000.

Failing to comply with the Quarantine Act can lead to a fine of up to $750,000 or six month imprisonment. If someone is found to have jeopardized another person’s life while wilfully or recklessly contravening the act, the penalties can be even greater: $1 million or three years in prison, or both.

The federal government first introduced the 14-day quarantine rule through the Quarantine Act order on March 25. Later, it expanded the order by saying that anyone returning home from abroad without a credible self-isolation plan would be forced to stay at a designated quarantine facility, such as a hotel.

Border deal with U.S. extended until June 21

For now, travel into Canada from abroad remains limited.

On Tuesday, Trudeau announced that Canada and the U.S. had arrived at a deal to extend the restrictions. As a result, non-essential travel across the Canada-U.S. border has been extended for another 30 days.

Both countries reached an agreement in March to temporarily close the border to non-essential travel. This means “no” to recreational visits, while keeping it open to commercial traffic and essential workers who cross for work.

Trudeau also hinted Tuesday that Canada could bring in tougher measures to slow the spread of the virus once the border finally reopens to non-essential travel.

“These are ongoing questions. We’ve given ourselves another month before we have to have the right answers to those questions on non-essential travel,” he told reporters.

“But even now, we know that we need to do more to ensure that travellers who are coming back from overseas or from the United States … are properly followed up on, are properly isolated and don’t become further vectors for the spread of COVID-19.”

Quarantine checks are essential

Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam called the mandatory 14-day quarantine for arrivals a “cornerstone” of federal pandemic policy going forward. Trudeau said the federal government is working with the premiers on the issue.

“But certainly, once we get to a point where non-essential travel picks up again in the coming months, I guess, we need to have strong measures in place and we’re looking at those closely,” he said.

Conservative MP Pierre Paul-Hus, the party’s critic for public safety and border security commented on the issue. He said the government needs to offer a plan for easing border restrictions and explain the benchmarks it’s using to guide its actions.

“Unfortunately, right now the Trudeau government is telling Canadians to ‘wait and see’ without explaining what metrics they are relying on to make decisions.”

More specific plan must be in place for easing border restrictions

The NDP’s public safety critic, Jack Harris, said public health officials should decide which measures are necessary at the border.

“We have concerns about the lack of consistency in the application of quarantine rules at the border,” he said.

“As the pressure increases to open up the border with the Americans, people are going to be less and less comfortable unless there are better measures in place to ensure our communities are safe.”

As of Tuesday evening, there were more than 4.8 million reported cases of the novel coronavirus worldwide. More than 1.5 million of those cases are in the U.S., according to a Johns Hopkins University tracking tool.

Outside of its deal with the U.S. administration, Canada closed off most international travel back in March with some exceptions.

The government officials began urging Canadians to avoid all international travel and come home as soon as possible. Consequently, more than a million Canadian citizens and permanent residents returned home at the onset of the pandemic.

A CBSA spokesperson didn’t have updated figures since the Quarantine Act come into effect; although the agency’s weekly statistics show while there’s been a dramatic drop in travel into Canada tens of thousands of people still cross by land and air every week.

During the week of May 11 to May 17, more than 127,000 people crossed at land borders. Most of them truckers — according to the CBSA. That’s an 88 per cent drop compared to the same time period a year ago.

And 14,536 individuals landed at Canada’s international airports last week, said the CBSA — a drop of 98 per cent.

Source: cbc.ca