The Canadian government announced Wednesday that travellers returning from abroad would be required to self-quarantine for 14 days – and could be hit with jail time or hefty fines if they don’t comply. 

Travelers arrive at the Pearson International Airport in Toronto, Canada, on March 26, 2020. Canada imposed a 14-day mandatory self-isolation rule for any traveler returning to Canada.
Canada's mandatory self-quarantine is now in effect © Zou Zheng/Xinhua via Getty

The emergency order for mandatory self-isolation has been imposed under the Quarantine Act, minister of health Patty Hajdu announced on 25 March. “The number of cases of COVID-19 is increasing daily – both at home and globally. Earlier this month, we asked travellers entering Canada to self-isolate for 14 days," Hadju said. "To protect the health and safety of returning Canadians and those who are around them, we are strengthening our measures at the border."

The order allows border control to collect contact information for anyone coming into Canada and follow up to make sure they’re following the directive to self-isolate, Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland said in a press briefing. “As of midnight, [the quarantine] becomes mandatory, she said. “But let me emphasise: you should be doing it already.”

When the quarantine was declared, nearly 3500 people in Canada had been diagnosed with COVID-19, chief public health officer Dr Theresa Tam said in a briefing the following day, noting that though there had been a spike in confirmed cases recently, the country’s fatality rate was still only 1%, an indication that the healthcare system was not yet overburdened. 

“We’re now seeing a snapshot of the severity of COVID-19 in Canada,” Tam said. “The seriousness of this disease cannot be overstated. Older adults and those with medical conditions are at high risk, but younger people are not immune. Not only can people of all ages get sick and become severely ill, but the impact on our health system will affect the health of all.” 

According to the country's public health agency, violations of the Quarantine Act can be punished with fines of up to $1m, up to three years in prison, or both, with spot checks to be conducted to verify compliance.

“This is a step we can all take to protect the health and safety of Canadians,” Freeland said. “If we can flatten the curve, then we can go back to normal life more quickly.” 

The coronavirus (COVID-19) is now a global pandemic. Find out what this means for travellers

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