Quarantine Act goes into effect to mandate self-isolation

For anyone returning to Canada, as of midnight today (Mar. 26), the Quarantine Act will be enforced and it will be mandatory to self-isolate for 14 days.

In this global climate, travellers can be exposed to the COVID-19 virus without even being aware, therefore, self-isolation is a critical key to slowing down the spread.

The Quarantine Act was put in place immediately following confederation in 1872 and was then revised after the SARS outbreak in 2003.

The Quarantine Act applies to everyone – Canadian and foreign national – and puts a duty on all travellers and transportation companies – either coming or going – to disclose if they have a communicable disease or if they suspect someone else they’re travelling with does. Screening officers, who are authorized by the Minister of Health, have the power to isolate anyone likely to have a communicable disease until they’re assessed by a quarantine officer and those who refuse can be arrested without a warrant. The quarantine officer can prescribe a medical examination and at this stage, if the traveller refuses treatment or “any other measure” to prevent the disease’s spread, the officer can arrest and detain the traveller, with the detention reviewed every seven days,

Under the Act, the Federal Health Minister has sweeping powers to stop the spread of a communicable disease either inside or outside of Canada. Those measures include everything from routine screenings conducted by quarantine officers at airports to the kinds of strict isolation that travellers experienced at the military base in Trenton (ON).

Every traveller must comply with any reasonable measure ordered by a screening officer or quarantine officer for the purpose of preventing the introduction and spread of a communicable disease.  It also empowers the government to make use of any building they see fit and designate it as a quarantine site, including private homes or using a military facility as it did in Trenton.

In referring to the powers mandated in the Federal Quarantine Act, Health Minister Patty Hajdu said that implementation measures could include arrests, monetary penalties as well as criminal penalties.”

“When we say that you must stay at home for 14 days, that means you stay at home for 14 days,” Hajdu added. “You do not stop for groceries, you do not go visit your neighbours or your friends, you rest in your house for 14 days. No exceptions. If you are returning to a household with other people who have not travelled, then you rest in isolation from those other people.”

“It is critically important, especially for those returning home now, to ensure that they follow this public health advice that we’re giving them,” she said. “And the advice will be not just advice. If we need to take certain measures, we will.”