Canada

Police notified of more than 1,500 international travellers as potential quarantine busters: federal officials

“However in some cases, travellers make overt statements indicating they will not comply or have no intention to comply.”

Despite the border challenge, Canada has managed to steadily decrease the spread of COVID-19 over recent weeks, even as transmission rises to record new levels in the U.S.

But the influx from outside the country continues to pose a threat of all that reversing, warns Dr. Jeff Kwong, a University of Toronto public-health expert.

It only takes a handful who don’t follow the quarantine orders to lead to the infection of others

A few high-profile cases lately have underscored that danger, including that of a man from the U.S. who arrived in Nova Scotia, did not quarantine and infected another person, who then travelled to PEI and transmitted the virus to several others.

“It’s a very real and important risk that we’re talking about,” said Kwong. “It only takes a handful who don’t follow the quarantine orders to lead to the infection of others, and then it’s all downhill from there.”

Kwong said he worries that Canada is not doing all it could to ensure people do not import cases into the country, especially with the prospect of the border opening again in coming months.

Some other countries have required arriving international travellers to download apps to their phones that enable authorities to ensure they are staying at home, he noted.

Others have created quarantine facilities where arrivals must spend their first two weeks under supervision.

In some cases, travellers make overt statements indicating they will not comply or have no intention to comply

Whether either of those measures would be feasible in Canada or tolerated by people here is another question, Kwong conceded.

The complex system for monitoring international travellers begins when the CBSA collects information on arrivals, then passes it on to the Public Health Agency.

Since late March, Border Services has also alerted both PHAC and the RCMP of 237 people it feels are likely to ignore the quarantine rules, or who have actually told border officers they will do so, said Purdy.

After making contact with new arrivals, the health agency does its own identification of people it thinks might not abide by the order and need “verification” by police, said Catherine Fortin, an RCMP spokeswoman.

Between March 25 and June 30, the agency has itself passed on 1,492 names to the RCMP of such “priority” cases, she said.

The Mounties contact people in jurisdictions where they cover local policing, which does not include Ontario or Quebec, and passes on the information to the appropriate police services elsewhere.

The RCMP has not laid charges or levied fines against any of the priority traveller cases it handled, said Fortin.

“RCMP officers will use a risk-based, measured approach to non-compliance with this (quarantine) order, focusing on education and encouragement,” she said. “RCMP officers will attempt to conduct physical verification with the individual while maintaining physical distancing. Our officers will speak to the person, inform them of the law and explain the importance of compliance, as well as the potential consequences of non-compliance.”

The Canadian border is closed, for the most part.

But three million people have still entered the country since late March, and a significant minority, federal officials say, pay little heed to rules requiring them to quarantine after getting here.

Public Health Agency of Canada officials and border guards have alerted police to over 1,500 international travellers they feared might flout COVID-19 isolation rules, the agencies say.

Government officials say police were dispatched to talk to them, though it appears few charges or fines have been levied since the quarantine rule was imposed March 21.

Some travellers even admitted as soon as they got to the border or airport that they probably would ignore the law requiring them to self-isolate for two weeks, says the Canada Border Services Agency.

The numbers underscore the daunting task of policing the thousands of travellers entering Canada from the U.S. and other places where the virus is still rampant, despite the border being shut down.

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