British Columbia

Police make 500 home visits to enforce quarantine orders for returning travellers

Hundreds of British Columbians who recently returned home from abroad have had police show up on their doorstep to make sure they're complying with self-isolation orders. 

100 people with insufficient self-isolation plans currently in government quarantine at B.C. hotels

The B.C. government has placed more than 9,000 followup calls to ensure people are complying with self-isolation orders. Hundreds who didn't respond were checked on by police. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Hundreds of British Columbians who recently returned home from abroad have had police show up on their doorstep to make sure they're complying with self-isolation orders. 

"'They perhaps didn't take this as seriously as we like," said MLA Ravi Kahlon, who is responsible for overseeing the process for the B.C. government. "So a local officer would knock on their door and say, 'hey, the province is trying to get ahold of you — you need to call them back.'"

On April 8, Premier John Horgan announced anyone entering Canada through Vancouver International Airport or any of B.C.'s land border crossings would be required to fill out a detailed self-isolation form and verbally present their plans to authorities. 

If that plan is sufficient, travellers are allowed to return home with the understanding they will receive followup phone calls and text messages to ensure they are quarantining as promised. More than 9,000 calls have been made to date.

About 100 travelers returning to B.C. with insufficient self-isolation plans have been placed under government quarantine at a handful of hotels near land border crossings around the Lower Mainland and across the Interior. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

For the 500 people provincewide who didn't respond to those followup attempts, the visit from police seemed to be the incentive needed to make sure they're complying.

"What we found is that, overwhelmingly, those people responded right away," said Kahlon, adding there are no outstanding travellers who haven't checked in. 

"It's not necessarily people trying to skip the rules; sometimes they just don't know who is calling, if they don't recognize the number, for example ... But the majority of people want to do the right thing."

'Forced' hotel quarantines

Roughly 16,000 Canadians have returned through B.C. borders in the three weeks since the province took control of enforcing the federal Quarantine Act.

About 100 of them did not present adequate self-isolation plans and were immediately taken into government-ordered quarantine at multiple hotels along land crossings in the Lower Mainland and the Interior.

Kahlon gave the example of a young man who had been backpacking across Asia for six years. When Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called on all Canadians to return home, he came back to B.C. but didn't have anywhere to stay. 

Since B.C. began tightening rules requiring specific self-isolation plans — and using mechanisms to enforce them — 26 returning travelers have started to develop symptoms while quarantining at home. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

"We've had situations where a person had a daughter-in-law at home who is a care aide and they were nervous about isolating with her because she's high-risk or others who have grandkids at home they don't want to get sick," he said.

The province has prepared multiple motels and hotels around the Lower Mainland and across the Interior along the land crossings to house these people for the required 14 days.

"[The travellers] get a per-diem, so they can call down to the hotel kitchen and order food, which is dropped off outside their door," said Kahlon. "They have to make their own beds; there's not daily cleanup service."

The accommodation and food are paid for by government. The province is currently covering all of the costs up-front but will be lobbying Ottawa to chip in to split the bill.

COVID-19 spread averted

Since the province began tightening rules requiring specific self-isolation plans — and using mechanisms to enforce them — 26 returning travellers have started to develop symptoms.

"All it takes is one person going into a grocery store or going into work, and we know how quickly these cases can spread," said Kahlon. "The process is working."

A total of 900 temporary foreign workers are also among those who have arrived in B.C. in recent weeks to work in the agriculture sector.

Of those, four different workers who came in on four separate flights wound up testing positive for COVID-19.

"With our followups, we've been able to pick up those suspected cases quickly and then refer them to the health-care system to get them in the process of getting tested," Kahlon said.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Provincial Affairs Reporter covering the B.C. Legislature. Anything political: tanya.fletcher@cbc.ca

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