Government of Canada updates mandatory self-quarantine rules for international travellers in order to reduce the spread of COVID-19

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Introduction

We previously reported that, on March 24, 2020, Canada’s Governor General issued an Order-in-Council, referred to as the Minimizing the Risk of Exposure to COVID-19 in Canada Order (Mandatory Isolation) (the Initial Order), pursuant to Section 58 of the Quarantine Act. The Initial Order required any person (subject to limited exceptions) who arrived in Canada (by air, sea, or land) to place themselves into self-isolation for a period of 14 days, in order to prevent further spread of the 2019 novel coronavirus (COVID-19). On April 14, 2020, the Initial Order was repealed and replaced with a new Order-in-Council, referred to as the Minimizing the Risk of Exposure to COVID-19 in Canada Order (Mandatory Isolation), No. 2 (the Second Order). Further details regarding the Second Order are provided below.

Quarantine v. isolation

The Second Order refers to both “quarantine” and “isolation”:

  1. The term “quarantine” refers to the separation of persons entering Canada from other countries in such a manner as to prevent the spread of infection or contamination.
  2. The term “isolation” refers to the separation of persons who are infected with COVID-19, or who have signs and symptoms of COVID-19, from other countries in such a manner as to prevent the possible spread of infection or contamination.

Additional obligations for persons arriving in Canada

Obligation to answer questions and provide information or records

The Second Order now provides that every person entering Canada be required to answer any relevant questions asked by a screening officer, quarantine officer or public health officer. They are also required to provide any information or record in their possession that the officer requires, in any manner that they may reasonably request.

Non-medical mask or face covering required

The Second Order now states that every person must now wear a non-medical mask or face covering (of a type considered appropriate by the screening/quarantine officer) upon entry and while in transit to isolation or quarantine, unless the mask or face covering needs to be removed for security or safety reasons. Transport Canada’s latest Interim Order also requires all persons boarding a flight to Canada to be in possession of a non-medical mask or face covering as of April 20, 2020.

Treatment of asymptomatic persons

Obligation to self-quarantine

As in the Initial Order, the Second Order states that every person entering Canada who is not exhibiting signs and symptoms of COVID-19 (this includes a fever and cough, or a fever and difficulty breathing) must:

  1. Quarantine themselves in accordance with the instructions of the screening/quarantine officer for a period of 14 days, beginning on the day that they enter Canada; and
  2. Monitor for signs and symptoms of COVID-19 until the 14-day period ends and, if they develop symptoms, follow instructions provided by the screening/quarantine officer.

However, the Second Order now clarifies that the 14-day period will restart if the person develops any signs and symptoms of COVID-19 during the initial quarantine period, or is exposed to someone else subject to the Second Order who exhibits signs and symptoms of COVID-19.

Inability to self-quarantine

The Second Order now states that even an asymptomatic person entering Canada may be sent to a designated quarantine facility (at any time during the 14-day period), where they will be required to remain until the 14-day period expires, if they are unable to quarantine themselves in a place:

  1. That is considered suitable by the Chief Public Health Officer, having regard to the risk to public health posed by COVID-19, the likelihood or degree of exposure of the person to COVID-19 prior to their entry to Canada, and any other factor that the Chief Public Health Officer considers relevant;
  2. Where they will not be in contact with vulnerable persons, unless the vulnerable person is a consenting adult, or is the parent or minor in a parent-minor relationship; or
  3. Where they will not have access to the necessities of life.

While the person remains in a designated quarantine facility, they will be required to undergo any health assessments that the quarantine officer requires. 

As in the Initial Order, the term “vulnerable person” means a person who:

  1. Has an underlying medical condition that makes the person susceptible to complications relating to COVID-19 [additional language added by the Second Order];
  2. Has a compromised immune system from a medical condition or treatment; or
  3. Is 65 years of age or older.

A person who has been sent to a designated quarantine facility may be permitted to leave prior to the expiration of the 14-day period, in order to quarantine themselves in a place that is considered suitable by the Chief Public Health Officer. However, their departure from the designated quarantine facility must be approved by a quarantine officer.

Urgent/essential medical treatment permitted

As in the Initial Order, the Second Order confirms that the requirement to remain in quarantine does not apply for the duration of any medical emergency or essential medical service/treatment that requires the person to visit or to be taken to a healthcare facility.

Exemptions from the self-quarantine requirement

As in the Initial Order, the Second Order exempts the following persons from the obligation to self-quarantine upon their arrival in Canada:

  1. A crew member as defined in the Canadian Aviation Regulations or a person who enters Canada only to become such a crew member;
  2. A member of a crew as defined in the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations (IRPR) or a person who enters Canada only to become such a crew member;
  3. A person who enters Canada at the invitation of the Minister of Health for the purpose of assisting in the COVID-19 response;
  4. A member of the Canadian Forces or a visiting force;
  5. A person or any person in a class of persons who the Chief Public Health Officer determines will provide an essential service;
  6. A person or any person in a class of persons whose presence in Canada, in the opinion of the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, or the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, is in the national interest;
  7. A person permitted to work in Canada as a provider of emergency services under Paragraph 186(t) of the IRPR;
  8. A person who enters Canada for the purpose of providing medical care or transporting essential medical equipment, supplies or means of treatment, or delivering, maintaining, or repairing medically-necessary equipment or devices, as long as they do not directly care for persons 65 years of age or older within the first 14 days after their entry to Canada [additional language added by the Second Order]; or
  9. A person who enters Canada for the purpose of receiving essential medical services or treatments, other than services or treatments related to COVID-19.

The Second Order also expands the list of exempt individuals to include the following:

  1. A person permitted to work in Canada as a student in a health field under Paragraph 186(p) of the IRPR, as long as they do not directly care for persons 65 years of age or older within the first 14 days after their entry to Canada;
  2. A licensed healthcare professional with proof of employment in Canada, as long as they do not directly care for persons 65 years of age or older within the first 14 days after their entry to Canada;
  3. A person (including a captain, deckhand, observer, inspector, scientist and any other person supporting commercial or research fishing-related activities) who enters Canada aboard a Canadian fishing vessel or a foreign fishing vessel as defined in the Coastal Fisheries Protection Act, for the purpose of carrying out fishing or fishing-related activities, including offloading of fish, repairs, provisioning the vessel and exchange of crew;
  4. A person who enters Canada within the boundaries of an integrated trans-border community that exists on both sides of the Canada-United States border and who is a habitual resident of that community, if entering Canada is necessary for carrying out an everyday function within that community; or
  5. A person who enters Canada if the entry is necessary to return to their habitual place of residence in Canada after carrying out an everyday function that, due to geographical constraints, must involve entering the United States.

The Second Order states that the requirements to quarantine do not apply to a person if:

  1. They become the subject of a provincial or local health order that is inconsistent with these requirements;
  2. The requirement is inconsistent with another requirement imposed on them under the Quarantine Act; or
  3. The Chief Public Health Officer determines that the person does not pose a risk of significant harm to public health.

The Second Order also clarifies that a person who is subject to the obligation to remain in quarantine may choose to leave Canada before the expiry of the 14-day quarantine period. However, they must continue to quarantine themselves until their departure date, and wear a non-medical mask or face covering when they depart from Canada.

Treatment of symptomatic persons

Obligation to self-isolate

As in the Initial Order, the Second Order states that any person entering Canada who has COVID-19, has signs and symptoms of COVID-19, or has reasonable grounds to suspect they have such signs and symptoms, must:

  1. Isolate themselves without delay in accordance with instructions provided by a screening/quarantine officer and remain in isolation until the expiry of the 14-day period that begins on the day on which the person enters Canada; and
  2. During the period of isolation, undergo any health assessments that a quarantine officer requires, monitor their signs and symptoms, and report to the public health authority specified by a screening officer or quarantine officer if they require additional medical care.

Inability to self-isolate

As in the Initial Order, the Second Order states that a symptomatic person will be considered unable to isolate themselves and may be sent to a designated quarantine facility (at any time during the 14-day period), where they will be required to remain until the 14-day period expires, if one of the following applies:

  1. The person has to use a public means of transportation, including aircraft, bus, train, subway, taxi or ride-sharing service, from the place where they enter Canada to arrive at the place where they will isolate themselves; or
  2. The person cannot isolate themselves for a period of 14 days in a place:
    1. That is considered suitable by the Chief Public Health Officer, having regard to the risk to public health posed by COVID-19, the likelihood or degree of exposure of the person to COVID-19 prior to entry to Canada, and any other factor that the Chief Public Health Officer considers relevant [additional language added by the Second Order];
    2. Where they will not be in contact with vulnerable persons, unless the vulnerable person is a consenting adult, or is the parent or minor in a parent-minor relationship [additional language added by the Second Order]; or
    3. Where they will not have access to the necessities of life.

A symptomatic person who has been sent to a designated quarantine facility may be permitted to leave prior to the expiration of the 14-day period, in order to isolate themselves in a place that is considered suitable by the Chief Public Health Officer. However, their departure from the designated quarantine facility must be approved by a quarantine officer.

The Second Order states that the requirements to isolate do not apply to a person if:

  1. They become the subject of a provincial or local health order that is inconsistent with those requirements;
  2. The requirement is inconsistent with another requirement imposed on them under the Quarantine Act; or
  3. The Chief Public Health Officer determines that the person does not pose a risk of significant harm to public health.

The Second Order clarifies that a person who is subject to the obligation to remain in isolation may choose to leave Canada before the expiry of the 14-day quarantine period. However, they must continue to isolate themselves until their departure date, and wear a non-medical mask or face covering when they depart from Canada in a private conveyance. 

Urgent/essential medical treatment permitted

As in the Initial Order, the Second Order clarifies that the requirement to remain in isolation does not apply for the duration of any medical emergency or essential medical service/treatment that requires the person to visit or to be taken to a healthcare facility.

Penalties for non-compliance

As was the case with the Initial Order, failure to comply with the Second Order is considered an offence under the Quarantine Act. Maximum penalties include a fine of up to $750,000 and/or imprisonment for six months. In addition, a person who causes a risk of imminent death or serious bodily harm to another person while wilfully or recklessly contravening the Quarantine Act or the regulations may be subject to a fine of up to $1 million or imprisonment of up to three years, or both.

Effective date

The Second Order became effective on April 15, 2020 and will continue until June 30, 2020 (the same expiration date as the Initial Order).

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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