POLITICS
03/21/2020 14:23 EDT | Updated 03/21/2020 23:57 EDT

Residents Who Don't Self-Isolate After Travel Could Face Arrest Or Fines, Saskatchewan Premier Warns

"If you don't do this, you're now breaking the law."

THE CANADIAN PRESS
Scott Moe, premier of Saskatchewan, speaks at a COVID-19 news update at the Legislative Building in Regina on Wed. March 18, 2020.

Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe says people who know of anyone not self-isolating after returning from international travel can now call police.

Moe announced sweeping new restrictions Friday aimed at preventing the spread of COVID-19. He said the public health recommendation to self-isolate for 14 days upon returning from international travel is now mandatory.

He signed an emergency order enabling police to enforce protective measures.

“This doesn’t mean that you go to the grocery store, or go to the drug store, or go fill up with gas and then you go home and self-isolate. This means you go home. And you stay home, now,” Moe said at a news conference.

“If you don’t do this, you’re now breaking the law.”

Those who refuse to follow the order could face up to a $2,000 fine or arrest, Moe said.

Watch: Saskatchewan doctor tests positive after attending curling event in Edmonton. Story continues below.  

 

“The vast majority of people are complying with this,” Moe said. 

Almost all of Saskatchewan’s 26 COVID-19 cases are related to foreign travel, which is why it’s essential those returning self-isolate, the premier said. Six new cases were announced Friday.

Health Minister Jim Reiter said he’s heard stories of people who have not self-isolated. He said anyone who knows of a person not following the order should also talk to that person.

“It’s concerning,” he said. “We need people to recognize how serious this is and we think this should grab their attention.”

After the announcement, the government issued an emergency alert warning people about the potential for fines.

Regina police said in a statement that calls about self-isolation will be recorded and officers will work with public health officials to decide what to do.

“We echo the province in seeking compliance to self-isolation and social distancing, and we expect that can be achieved through education,” the statement read.

Opposition NDP Leader Ryan Meili announced earlier Friday that he’s self-isolating because his wife, who is a pediatrician, woke up with a cough.

“She has a test booked for tomorrow a.m. Hopefully it will be clear and she can get right back to seeing patients!” he said on Twitter.

Saskatchewan is also offering some relief for people who can’t work because they are self-isolating.

People who have to stay at home and aren’t covered by sick leave, private insurance or federal employment insurance will get $450 per week for a maximum of two weeks.

A ban on large gatherings will no longer allow more than 25 people in one room, except where two-metre social distancing can be maintained. Bars and restaurants will also be closing for everything but takeout effective Monday.

The government plans to open daycare spaces in schools for children of front-line health workers responding to COVID-19. 

“This doesn’t mean that you go to the grocery store, or go to the drug store, or go fill up with gas and then you go home and self-isolate. This means you go home. And you stay home, now.”Scott Moe

 

Priority is to be given to parents of school-aged children who work in hospitals, testing sites, primary care areas and labs.

Other essential staff like firefighters and police, as well as social services employees who provide income assistance and child protection, are also eligible.

“We felt that it was important to ensure that there was child care for our emergency workers,” Education Minister Gord Wyant said Friday, adding that more than 2,300 spots have been made available.

The school daycares will be properly sanitized, he said.

“We want to minimize the risk as much as possible,” said Wyant.

“There certainly is some additional space in the schools now that there’s no children there. So there’ll be lots of opportunity to further distance kids from each other to maintain the smallest groups that they possibly can.”

Civil liberties at risk if no compliance: Hadju

Federal Health Minister Patty Hajdu warned Saturday that if Canadians choose to ignore the pleas from health authorities, the government will take more draconian measures.

“When people are playing loose and hard with the rules like this it does actually put our civil liberties at jeopardy,” Hajdu said. “It makes governments have to look at more and more stringent measures to actually contain people in their own homes.

“Politicians and governments will be pushed to a place to take more and stringent measures when people violate them and don’t take this seriously. So I would encourage Canadians to think about that and to think about their obligation to act collectively right now.”

On Friday, Ontario Police shared on Twitter some the fines individuals could face during the province’s state of emergency in response to COVID-19, which range from $750 for not complying with an order given, to $1,000 for obstructing a person performing a duty in accordance with an order made during the emergency. Corporations defying orders can face a fine of $500,000.

On Friday, a woman in Quebec City who had tested positive for COVID-19 was arrested after she violated the self-isolation order. She left her home and was apprehended by police, but was not charged, as she followed police to the hospital, a police officer told CTV news. 

The arrest was the first time Quebec City’s public health director issued an order to police under emergency powers granted after Premier Francois Legault declared a public health emergency March 14.

Dr. Horacio Arruda, the province’s chief medical officer, told reporters Saturday that regional health directors across the province “will have no problem” ordering police to make arrests and ensure people carrying the virus are isolated.

“Starting now, it’s clear that we will restrict people who aren’t respecting the orders,″ Arruda said. ``Especially if they have already been advised, contacted, and we have information that they are walking around.

``It’s a question of respect. The rights of individuals stop when the impact of the community is very high.″

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 20, 2020. 

With files from Lisa Yeung and Giuseppe Valiante of The Canadian Press.