On March 25, 2020, Health Minister Patty Hajdu announced an Emergency Order under the Quarantine Act, which would legally require any person (with the exception of “essential workers”), who arrived in Canada (by air, sea, or land), to place themselves into self-isolation (i.e., self-quarantine) for a period of 14 days, in order to prevent further spread of the 2019 novel coronavirus (COVID-19). The Public Health Agency of Canada also issued a press release relating to the Emergency Order on the same day. Further details regarding the Emergency Order appear below.
Obligations of persons arriving in Canada
On March 24, 2020, Canada’s Governor General has issued an Order-in-Council referred to as the Minimizing the Risk of Exposure to COVID-19 in Canada Order (Mandatory Isolation) (the Order), pursuant to Section 58 of the Quarantine Act. The Order states that any person entering Canada must:
- Isolate themselves without delay in accordance with instructions provided by a screening officer or a quarantine officer, and remain in isolation for a period of 14 days, even if they are not exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19; and
- Monitor themselves for signs and symptoms of COVID-19 during the 14-day period and, if they develop any symptoms of COVID-19, follow the instructions provided by the public health authority specified by a screening officer or quarantine officer.
It also states that any person who (at the time of entry) exhibits symptoms of COVID-19 (i.e., a fever and cough, or a fever and breathing difficulties), or who has reasonable grounds to suspect they have these symptoms, must:
- Disclose this fact to a screening officer or quarantine officer; and
- During the period of isolation, undergo any health assessments that a quarantine officer requires, monitor their signs and symptoms, and report to the public health authority specified by a screening officer or quarantine officer if they require additional medical care.
Quarantine facilities for persons who cannot self-isolate
If a person who (at the time of entry) exhibits symptoms of COVID-19 (or who has reasonable grounds to suspect they have these symptoms) is unable to self-isolate for the following reasons, they will be transported to a quarantine facility where they will remain in isolation until the 14-day period has expired:
- The person has to use a public means of transportation, including aircraft, bus, train, taxi, subway, a ride-sharing service, from their point of arrival to where they intend to isolate themselves; or
- The person cannot isolate themselves for a period of 14 days in a place where they will not: (1) be in contact with vulnerable persons, or (2) have access to the necessities of life.
The term “vulnerable person” is defined as a person who:
- Has an underlying medical condition;
- Has a compromised immune system from a medical condition or treatment; or
- Is 65 years of age or older.
Exemptions from the obligation to self-isolate
The Order specifically exempts the following persons from the obligation to self-isolate upon their arrival in Canada:
- A crew member as defined in the Canadian Aviation Regulations or a person who enters Canada only to become such as crew member;
- A member of a crew as defined in the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations (IRPR) or a person who enters Canada only to become such as crew member;
- A person who enters Canada at the invitation of the Minister of Health for the purpose of assisting in the COVID-19 response;
- A member of the Canadian Forces or a visiting force;
- A person or any person in a class of persons who, in the opinion of the Chief Public Health Officer, will provide an essential service while in Canada;
- A person whose presence in Canada, in the opinion of the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, or the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, is in the national interest;
- A person permitted to work in Canada as a provider of emergency services under the IRPR;
- A person who enters Canada for the purpose of providing medical care or transporting essential medical equipment, supplies or means of treatment; or
- A person who enters Canada for the purpose of receiving essential medical services or treatments, other than services or treatments related to COVID-19.
Although one of the above exemptions refers to persons who will provide an essential service while in Canada, the term “essential” is not defined in the Order. However, the website of the Public Health Agency of Canada describes essential workers as follows:
Essential workers are considered critical to preserving life, health and basic societal functioning. This includes, but is not limited to, first responders, health care workers, critical infrastructure workers, hydro and natural gas, and workers who are essential to supply society by critical goods, such as food and medicines.
Hopefully, further details regarding who is considered an “essential” worker will be provided in the near future.
Penalties for non-compliance
Failure to comply with the Order is considered an offence under the Quarantine Act. Maximum penalties include a fine of up to $750,000 and/or imprisonment for six months. In addition, a person who causes a risk of imminent death or serious bodily harm to another person while wilfully or recklessly contravening the Quarantine Act or the regulations may be subject to a fine of up to $1 million or imprisonment of up to three years, or both.
The Order became effective at 00:00.01 a.m. (i.e., 12:01 a.m.) Eastern Daylight Time on March 25, 2020. It will expire at 00:00:01 a.m. (i.e., 12:01 a.m.) Eastern Daylight Time on June 30, 2020.
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