Canadian News Jul 30, 2021 4:47 AM EST

Health officials visited quarantined Canadians 350,000 times during pandemic, nearly 58,000 people non-compliant

Under the Quarantine Act, returning travellers are required to self-isolate at home and "follow the strictest measure" under threat of six months’ jail or $750,000 fines.

Health officials visited quarantined Canadians 350,000 times during pandemic, nearly 58,000 people non-compliant
Alex Anas Ahmed Calgary, AB
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The Public Health Agency said nearly 58,000 Canadians were suspected of leaving their residences in breach of the Quarantine Act, records show.

Under the Act, returning travellers are required to self-isolate at home and "follow the strictest measure" under threat of six months in jail or $750,000 in fines, according to Actions In Quarantine, a guide by a federal advisory panel. The agency disclosed that in five months this year, authorities conducted home checks on more than a 350,000 people.

"Home checks focus on medium risk travellers," the agency wrote in a report to the Commons government operations committee. "Higher risk travellers are referred to the provinces of jurisdiction for compliance verification."

"From January 29 to June 22, 2021, a total of 348,647 visits were conducted with 57,578 subsequently referred to RCMP for potential non-compliance," said the report Follow Up Responses. Authorities suspected non-compliance if a householder did not answer the door or a telephone call. Figures did not disclose if any were charged by the RCMP, according to Blacklocks.

Actions In Quarantine warned self-isolating homeowners they must not leave their property until testing negative for COVID-19. People were forbidden from receiving guests or visiting family and instructed to "avoid contact with others who did not travel with you and sleep in a separate bedroom."

Groceries were to be delivered, and householders were instructed to practice physical distancing.

Apartment dwellers were banned from lounging in lobbies or courtyards. Homeowners could "only go outside on a private balcony or yard with those who have travelled with you."

Health Minister Patricia Hajdu earlier told the Commons self-isolation rules must be followed despite previously rolling back on border restrictions. "Obviously, Canadians always have a right to come home," said Hajdu. "Even for Canadians returning home, we have additional measures including mandatory quarantine."

Cabinet quietly rewrote quarantine rules mid-July, affecting cross-border travellers and signalling the imminent easing of restrictions on non-essential trips after 16 long months. They waived a rule that non-essential travel bans remain in place until 75 percent of Canadians are fully vaccinated.

"Anyone who is returning to Canada must take a test upon arrival and quarantine until the receipt of a negative test, and then go to complete their quarantine in their own home," said Hajdu. "Quarantine has been a very important process."

Cabinet in Inquiries Of Ministry earlier tabled in the Commons disclosed more than $2.9 million in fines were levied on air travellers who refused to stay at pandemic hotels. An order requiring passengers to pay for three nights stay will be repealed on August 9.

Scofflaws were also ticketed for forged Covid tests or failing to submit any test on arrival at the border. A total of 28,305 air passengers and drivers were referred to Covid hotels for "not having suitable accommodation to quarantine," according to the June 22 briefing note Impact Of Border Measures And Statistics by the Department of Public Safety.

The Department of Public Safety also said that Canada sent more than 28,000 people to quarantine hotels at both public and personal expense. Cabinet to date has not detailed the program's cost, though Supplementary Estimates tabled in Parliament put the expense of border measures at $225,556,596.

Taxpayers paid the total cost of transport, room, board, and medical care for hotel stays until February 22, 2021, when Cabinet charged costs directly to travellers under the Quarantine Act.

The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms challenged the constitutionality of federal quarantine hotels on July 9. They said Wednesday it would move forward on an expedited basis at the Federal Court of Appeal. The Federal Court of Appeal agreed with the Justice Centre Wednesday to move forward at a faster pace than a typical appeal due to "great public interest" surrounding the issue.

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