The federal government has spent more than $37 million on quarantining travellers returning from abroad, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada.
According the PHAC, as of July 29 there have been 2,306 returning travellers who have needed to quarantine at one of 11 federal sites across the country. The agency said using the sites is the “last resort” and travellers are expected to make their own quarantine arrangements in advance.
“Travellers who are unable to quarantine in their own place of residence should consider alternatives within their financial means such as booking a hotel/motel room or other paid housing alternative, or staying with friends or family,” PHAC said in a statement. “In cases where it is deemed necessary by a PHAC officer… travellers may be sent to a federally designated quarantine facility.”
Although Canada’s borders have been shut to non-essential foreign nationals since March, citizens and permanent residents who travel abroad cannot be banned from returning. According to the Canada Border Services Agency, 551,201 Canadian citizens and permanent residents returned to the country between March 21 and Aug. 16.
As of March 25, quarantining for 14 days has been mandatory for all returning travellers. Those who break quarantine rules can be fined up to $750,000 or imprisoned for six months. Anyone who causes a “risk of imminent death or serious bodily harm to another person” while violating quarantine rules can be fined up to $1 million or imprisoned for up to three years.
The $37.1 million that the feds have spent on quarantine travellers from April 1 to July 29 have been split between 11 sites in Whitehorse, Vancouver, Kelowna, Calgary, Regina, Winnipeg, Toronto, Montreal, Fredericton, Halifax and St. John’s.
Quarantined travellers received three meals a day and other “essential items.” As of Aug. 15, there are currently 245 travellers in federal sites: 20 in Vancouver, 15 in Calgary, eight in Winnipeg, 154 in Toronto, 44 in Montreal, two in Halifax and two in Fredericton.
As of Thursday (Aug. 20) afternoon, there are more than 123,490 cases of COVID-19 in Canada, and 9,049 deaths. Non-essential travellers from the U.S. remain banned until Sept. 21, while the order banning non-U.S. foreign nationals is currently set to expire Aug. 31.
Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.