Canadian Health Minister looking at criminal punishment for travellers who disobey quarantine advice

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Health Minister Patty Hajdu says she's looking at the option of criminal penalties for Canadian travellers who don't follow the government's advice to self-isolate when they return home.

"Let me be perfectly clear. We will use every measure in our tool box at the federal level to ensure compliance ... we have measures that could include monetary penalties up to and including criminal penalties," she said during her daily briefing on Parliament Hill.

"When we say that you must stay at home for 14 days, that means you stay at home for 14 days. You do not stop for groceries, that you do not go visit your neighbours or your friends, that you rest in your house for 14 days. No exceptions."

The Quarantine Act, which was updated in 2005 after the deadly SARS outbreak, gives the federal health minister the power to designate quarantine zones and fine or jail travellers who disobey quarantine requests.

If a designated quarantine officer believes that a traveller has refused to isolate themselves, they can ask a peace officer to arrest the traveller and bring them into quarantine.

Hajdu said the government is looking at the more "stringent requirements of the Quarantine Act," but for now is still asking and recommending Canadians follow the self-isolation guidelines.

"And I'm hoping we don't have to get to ordering them," she said.

"It is critically important, especially for those returning home now, to ensure that they follow this public health advice that we're giving them. The advice will be not just advice — if we need to take stronger measures we will."

More Canadians are expected to make it home in the coming days.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said WestJet will run more than 30 flights from Monday to Wednesday to bring home Canadians stuck abroad back.

Trudeau said stronger federal measures are on the table under the Emergencies Act, but for now Ottawa is working with the provinces who are restricting movement on their own.

 
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