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Southwestern Public Health issues order to enforce self-isolation, quarantine

This undated electron microscope image made available by the U.S. National Institutes of Health in February 2020 shows the Novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, orange, emerging from the surface of cells, green, cultured in the lab. Also known as 2019-nCoV, the virus causes COVID-19. The sample was isolated from a patient in the U.S. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, NIAID-RML

As of 11:59 p.m. Thursday, a new order will come into effect from Southwestern Public Health to enforce individual compliance with public health instructions aimed at reducing the spread of the novel coronavirus.

In particular, the order aims to address issues with self-isolation or quarantine of people diagnosed with COVID-19; those with signs and symptoms who are awaiting test results; those who otherwise have reason to believe they have symptoms of COVID-19; or those who are a close contact of anyone who does.

Read more: Coronavirus: Pair of Americans in Ontario fined, charged under Quarantine Act

The health unit has not explicitly said that any particular cases or incidents prompted the order. But medical officer of health Dr. Joyce Lock said the order gives health officials the authority to enforce best practices “should it be required.”

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“Largely, the residents of this region have been doing what they can and should do. Most of us want to keep our friends, family and neighbours safe,” she said.

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“But occasionally, public health needs the legal means to enforce best practices related to infection prevention and control.”

As of July 22, Southwestern Public Health had reported 94 confirmed cases, including 81 considered “resolved,” and five deaths.

The order, issued under section 22 of the province’s Health Protection and Promotion Act, covers Oxford County, Elgin County, and the City of St. Thomas. Public health instructions highlighted in the order include self-isolation, “keeping those around you safe from infection, staying away from vulnerable persons, and seeking prompt medical attention” if needed.

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Read more: Coronavirus: 2 new cases, 2 recoveries in London-Middlesex; 1 case reported in Elgin-Oxford

In a release, the health unit describes the order as a legal measure that “authorizes the health unit to enforce individual compliance with public health instructions.” Those who fail to comply “can be charged and fined up to $5,000 per day to every day the offence occurs or continues.”

The order is in place “until further notice.”

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