Coronavirus: Canadian police made 1,122 in-person quarantine checks in April

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Police agencies across Canada conducted more than a thousand “physical verification” checks in April to make sure people in mandatory isolation due to the risk of novel coronavirus weren’t violating quarantine, Global News has learned.

According to the RCMP — which shares information with provincial and territorial police forces needed to make these checks in their jurisdictions — the verifications were requested by the Public Health Agency of Canada.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: Police to verify Canadians complying with quarantine order, RCMP says

“(PHAC) has requested law enforcement physical verification checks on 1,122 priority individuals,” RCMP spokesperson Robin Percival told Global News in a written statement.

The RCMP did not issue any fines stemming from the checks.

The figures provided by the RCMP are for the time period between April 10, when the Quarantine Act came into effect, and April 30. More recent data is not yet available.

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The RCMP told its officers to track any action taken to enforce quarantine rules, such as fines and arrests. This information is collected and sent back to Mountie headquarters in Ottawa and then shared with public health officials.

READ MORE: As Canada reopens, are we ready for a ‘second wave’ of coronavirus infection?

Provincial and municipal police agencies are responsible for providing this data to PHAC for their own jurisdictions, the RCMP said.

Global News asked PHAC for this information but a response was not provided by deadline.

Police agencies asked to help

As Global News reported in April, PHAC asked the RCMP and other law enforcement agencies to follow-up on individuals who could be breaking mandatory self-isolation and quarantine rules.

Police agencies are to verify whether people are following the rules — meaning they are staying inside their homes.

According to the RCMP, checks are generally limited to cases where PHAC has already done initial verifications by phone, text or email, and where physical verification is needed.

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“When it comes to the RCMP, it’s comforting to know they are playing a supporting role, particularly in enforcing quarantines,” said University of Waterloo emergency preparedness expert Jason Thistlethwaite.

Thistlethwaite said he’s also glad the RCMP appear to be taking a reasonable approach to enforcement of the rules, relying on positive encouragement and education, rather than levying burdensome fines.

Anyone who violates the government’s mandatory self-isolation order upon entering Canada could be fined up to $750,000 or sent to jail for six months. If someone causes bodily harm to another person while recklessly violating the quarantine act they could face up to $1 million in fines and three years in prison.

Rules around self-isolation

As a result of the most recent government orders, anyone entering Canada must isolate for 14 days if they show symptoms of COVID-19. This means staying indoors and eliminating contact with others, unless seeking medical advice.

Anyone returning to Canada who doesn’t appear to be ill must quarantine for 14 days, limit contact with others and practice physical distancing whenever possible.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: Ontario outlines what can restart for Stage 1 of reopening province beginning Tuesday

The Canada Border Services Agency’s enhanced screening process includes asking people — whether entering Canada by air, land or sea —  if they feel sick, have a cough, fever or other symptoms associated with COVID-19.

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Border officers also observe people for physical signs of illness and will report anyone they believe could be sick to public health officials for additional screening.

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As of April 15, anyone entering Canada must provide a satisfactory quarantine plan, including details of how they will self-isolate and get basic necessities, such as groceries, while avoiding contact with vulnerable people, including anyone over the age of 65.

If a suitable quarantine plan is not provided, or if someone who is sick does not have private transportation, public health officials can order that person quarantined at a government facility.

READ MORE: What the coronavirus reproduction number is, and why we should keep an eye on it

The government has also introduced contact tracing for anyone entering Canada.

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Travellers must provide details of people they’ve come in contact with while abroad. This can be done through paper forms or a new mobile app created by the government to limit physical contact with border officials and public health officers.

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