Canada imposes mandatory self-isolation for those returning

Rob Gillies
Associated Press

Toronto – Canada imposed mandatory self-isolation Wednesday for those returning to Canada under the Quarantine Act.

Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland initially said the system would begin at midnight Wednesday and require 14 days of isolation. But several hours later, government officials said the quarantine order had been in effect for more than 12 hours already.

Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau addresses Canadians on the coronavirus situation from Rideau Cottage in Ottawa, Ontario, on Wednesday, March 25, 2020.

“It will be a legal obligation for people entering Canada from outside Canada,” Freeland said. “Essential workers are excluded.”

Freeland said penalties would be announced later Wednesday.

More than a million Canadians and permanent residents returned to Canada between March 14 to March 20, according to Canada Border Services.

The mandatory quarantine will not apply to truck drivers and health care workers crossing the border. Canada relies on cross border trade for essential goods like food. Canada and the United States already closed their common border for all non-essential travel.

Freeland said people who have already returned should be self-isolating at home already. She said it is critical to protect the health of Canadians and ultimately to ensure that the country’s economic rebound comes more quickly.

“If we can flatten the curve then we can go back to normal life more quickly,” she said.

Health Minister Patty Hajdu said on Twitter that the government is making self-isolating for returning Canadians and permanent residents mandatory to better protect Canada’s most vulnerable.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also announced his government will offer $2,000 Canadian (US$1,395) a month, for the next four months, for workers who lose their income as a result of the pandemic.

Trudeau said Canada is facing a once in a generation challenge and noted a million Canadians applied for employment insurance in a week.

“Help is on the way,” Trudeau said.

Trudeau said if a Canadian loses their job because of COVID-19 – whether they are full-time, contract or self-employed – the new benefit is available. He said it also covers a person who is sick or quarantined, or looking after someone sick. Workers still employed but not receiving income because of the crisis are eligible.

The prime minister also said his government will also announce supports to keep journalists working amid the financial impact of the crisis.

“Right now, it’s more important than ever that Canadians have access to the latest news and information,” Trudeau said. “To ensure that journalists can continue to do this vital work, our government is announcing new measures to support them.”

Canada’s minister of heritage will release more details later.

Trudeau made the remarks outside his residence, where he is in isolation after his wife tested positive for the virus. He says his wife is doing “much much better” and he and his kids have no symptoms.

Canada is now testing 10,000 people a day and has tested more than 142,000 people. Canada has more than 3,197 confirmed cases and at least 27 deaths.

The Pacific Coast province of British Columbia government, meanwhile, is suspending evictions and offering a $500 monthly rebate to help renters and landlords during the COVID-19 pandemic.