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Canada will use ‘every measure in our toolbox’ to prevent COVID-19 spread, minister says

Coronavirus outbreak: Health minister sends a stern message to everyone not following public health advice
Coronavirus outbreak: Health minister sends a stern message to everyone not following public health advice.

Health Minister Patty Hajdu delivered a strong message to Canadians on preventing the spread of the coronavirus, saying that while the government would prefer not to penalize those who are asked to stay in self-isolation — it will if it has to.

“Let me be perfectly clear,” Hajdu told reporters on Sunday. “We will use every measure in our toolbox at the federal level to ensure compliance.”

“Just because you are not feeling the illness or you don’t have necessarily in your community even one case. What we’re trying to do so diligently together at all levels of government is prevent this disease from spreading towards other communities, and everybody has a part to play in that.”

READ MORE: Coronavirus: Health minister signs order for faster access to COVID-19 test kits

The health minister referred to the powers mandated in the Federal Quarantine Act, which has measures that could include arrests, as well as “monetary penalties up to and including criminal penalties.”

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The act has jurisdiction over international borders and travel, and several provinces have already enacted Quarantine Acts of their own.

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In Nova Scotia, the province’s Health Protection Act will allow police to enforce orders related to self-isolation and social distancing, as well as fine individuals $1,000 for not adhering to the rules.

Coronavirus outbreak: Health minister says collective action is needed from all Canadians
Coronavirus outbreak: Health minister says collective action is needed from all Canadians

In Ontario, gatherings of over 50 people have been outlawed, and the province has banned people from a majority of public spaces.

During the press conference, Hajdu directly addressed snowbirds and Canadians returning home from March break, stressing that anyone who had recently travelled should stay in their homes and not interact with asymptomatic, healthy people.

“When we say that you must stay at home for 14 days, that means you stay at home for 14 days,” she said.

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READ MORE: Nova Scotia declares state of emergency, announces 7 new cases of COVID-19

“You do not stop for groceries, you do not go visit your neighbours or your friends, you rest in your house for 14 days. No exceptions. If you are returning to a household with other people who have not travelled, then you rest in isolation from those other people.”

Aside from recent travellers and those with symptoms, Hajdu said the general public should still be practising social distancing — even in areas that have zero confirmed cases of COVID-19.

“It is critically important, especially for those returning home now, to ensure that they follow this public health advice that we’re giving them,” she said. “And the advice will be not just advice. If we need to take certain measures, we will.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also urged Canadians to practise social distancing on Sunday and said that he was working with all provinces to make sure people understood its importance.

“We are telling people, stay home, engage in social distancing, protect yourselves, protect our system, and let’s get through this strongly as a country,” he said. “We will continue to look at possible next steps that may be necessary.”