EASTERN ONTARIO — Dr. Paul Roumeliotis urges returning snowbirds and vacationers to follow the rules and self-isolate for 14 days upon return to Canada — no stopping at the grocery store or pharmacy before arriving home.
“We expect you to stay home now,” says the Eastern Ontario Medical Officer of Health, in comments made during this afternoon’s daily media briefing on the COVID-19 crisis. “If you’re in self-insolation, you can go to the back yard … but going to the store and other public places, you should not be doing.”
The doctor says that health units across Ontario are receiving complaints about recent returnees showing up in public places less than two weeks after coming home.
Although the doctor admits the blanket self-isolation request of travellers is “voluntary” and enforcement “impractical’ because of the sheer number of individuals who have been out of the country, he does possess the real power to physically impose quarantine if someone is infected with COVID-19 and poses a community hazard through their behaviour. “If you had an individual who had COVID-19 and was asked to self-isolate and … refused to do so, I could order that. I could order a quarantine supported by police and court orders and with all kinds of fines.
“I think people should know that; although we’re asking them to voluntarily self-isolate, in certain situations, if I perceive them to be a health hazard to the community, I can order them to be quarantined with heavy fines and other repercussions …”
While the EOHU itself has received only “three or four” complaints on wayward travellers not self-isolating, the doctors says he’s heard it from his colleagues around the province.
“I trust people, I think people will do the right thing. But I think they should also know if they’re not collaborating, people will shame them, for lack of a better word,” he says, also reiterating his ability to trigger “other recourses” for individuals that actually have the coronavirus.
The doctor also clarifies that individuals in self-isolation are “allowed to stand outside their front door” and go outside on their properties, “as long as they don’t congregate with other people.”