Mandatory quarantines to apply to returning travellers, Freeland says

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Coronavirus outbreak: "Significant penalties" if quarantines violated, Canadian Health Minister says

Health Minister Patty Hajdu said early Wednesday that, "effective at midnight tonight", all travellers returning to Canada - with the exception of what the federal government is calling "essential workers" - will have to enter a mandatory 14 days of isolation under the Quarantine Act whether or not they have symptoms of coronavirus.

The isolation periods will be required under the Quarantine Act and will start at 11:59 p.m. Wednesday.

Hajdu said all global travellers arriving back in Canada will be told not to make any stops on their way home and to stay off public transportation.

Ms. Freeland said Canadians who return home from being overseas are already being advised to go into self-isolation. "At the same time, all of us are going to be and feel safer with mandatory quarantines for anyone entering Canada".

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Anyone returning to Canada from overseas - even if it's just across the Canada-U.S. border - will now have to self-quarantine at home or face the consequences. She said the new measure will provide "clarity" to those re-entering the country.

Freeland said the issue had been debated "at length" during the coronavirus cabinet committee meeting on Monday night.

The government is stepping up measures to stop the spread of COVID-19 and flatten the curve here at home.

"It will get worse before it gets better", she added.

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"Maximum penalties include a fine of up to $750,000 and/or imprisonment for six months".

Truck drivers and health care workers crossing the border are exempted from the quarantine act and Canada and the United States already closed their common border for all non-essential travel.

Worldwide travel, particularly from hard-hit countries such as China, Iran, and South Korea and then later Europe and the US, has been identified as one of the major reasons for the virus' spread in Canada. Canada relies on cross border trade for essential goods like food and medicine.

She also said it would ensure that those who live with vulnerable people, such as the elderly or those at greater risk due to immune suppression, will have alternative places to stay if "that's their only choice".

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