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Stay or pay: Mandatory two-week quarantine now in effect for travellers returning to Canada amid pandemic

Last Updated Mar 26, 2020 at 8:48 am CDT

(Hana Mae Nassar, NEWS 1130 Photo)

Travellers returning to Canada are now required to self-quarantine for no less than 14 days

New measure imposed by federal government in effort to slow spread of COVID-19 took effect Wednesday night

The order doesn't apply to people the feds have deemed essential workers, like truck drivers, healthcare workers

OTTAWA (NEWS 1130) – Anyone returning to Canada from abroad – even if it’s just across the Canada-U.S. border – will now have to self-quarantine at home or face the consequences.

The mandatory action under the Quarantine Act took effect Wednesday night and doesn’t apply to essential workers like truck drivers and healthcare workers.

The federal government touted the mandatory self-isolation measure as a step in the fight to protect the health and safety of all Canadians.

“All Canadians have been working very, very hard to practice physical distancing in their lives, and we have, for some time now, been urgently advising people coming into Canada to self-isolate for 14 days upon their return,” said Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland on Wednesday. “We have decided now is the time to make that measure mandatory.”

Travellers must self-isolate even if they don’t have COVID-19-like symptoms. This means people can’t even stop for supplies, despite several border cities reporting RVs parked outside of places like grocery stores to stock up.

It’s not a suggestion and the consequences could be extreme: the penalty for violating this order could cost anyone caught up to $750,000. It could also result in arrest and up to six months in jail.

The government will be conducting random checks to ensure people are complying with the order.

“It will get worse before it gets better,” she added. “As a country, we are lucky to have an outstanding national health-care system and terrific health-care professionals, but we all need to do what we can … to plank the curve, and this mandatory isolation will help us all do that.”

Freeland and other ministers had originally said the Quarantine Act would take effect until midnight eastern time – 9:00 PST – but several hours later, some officials started to clarify the order had been in place for more than 12 hours already.

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

-With files from Mike Hall and The Canadian Press