Strict new mandatory quarantine rules come into effect for returning Canadians

COVID-19/coronavirus update: March 26, 2020

Critical Update for Snowbirds

The federal government is imposing strict, mandatory quarantine rules on travellers returning to Canada and is promising heavy fines and jail time for those who ignore the warning.

Health Minister Patty Hajdu said early Wednesday that, “effective at midnight tonight,” all travellers returning to Canada — with the exception of what the federal government is calling “essential workers” — will have to enter a mandatory 14 days of isolation under the Quarantine Act whether or not they have symptoms of coronavirus.

“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 of dollars to help Canadians weather the COVID-19 crisis.

Starting Thursday morning, border officers will begin informing all returning Canadians and permanent residents of the new orders and telling them that they’re forbidden to stop along the way.

Her department said maximum penalties for failing to comply with the order include a fine of up to $750,000 and/or imprisonment for six months. If someone jeopardizes another’s life “while wilfully or recklessly contravening the act” the penalties are even greater: $1 million or three years in prison, or both.

Hajdu said no one will be permitted to quarantine anywhere they can come into contact with vulnerable people; those who, for example, live with an elderly person or someone with a compromised immune system will have to quarantine elsewhere. She said the Public Health Agency of Canada will make arrangements for those people to stay somewhere else, such as a hotel.

Spot checks will be conducted by the government of Canada to verify compliance, according to health officials.

Hajdu told the Senate that individuals who exhibit symptoms will be banned from taking public transit to their places of isolation — but later said that all returning travellers will be forbidden from taking city buses, trains and subways.

“So all travellers who don’t have an opportunity to return in a private vehicle will be provided transportation to their destination,” she said.

Earlier today Hajdu said travellers who are arriving at one of the four international airports and connecting “will be asked to quarantine in place in those cities for 14 days and we will provide the accommodation and meals for those situations.”

A health official later clarified that only people with symptoms will be quarantined in the city of arrival and that travellers without symptoms can continue on and isolate at their homes.