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

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.”

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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.”

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

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.

2:00Coronavirus 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 people who are symptomatic 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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“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.”

Hajdu also clarified that the government was only recommending Canadians who were symptomatic to remain indoors, but that everybody should still be practising social distancing — even in areas that have zero confirmed cases of the 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.”

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