B.C. couple flouts quarantine rules, highlighting gaps in COVID-19 enforcment

A Cowichan Valley couple that has been flouting quarantine rules since recently returning from international travel has shown there are still gaps to fill in COVID-19 enforcement, according to a local mayor.

North Cowichan Mayor Al Siebring said the the couple returned to Canada after the federal government invoked the Quarantine Act on March 25, which legally requires travellers to isolate for 14 days upon arrival.

“They basically told our bylaw enforcement officers, ‘sorry, but we’re just not going to do that,’” said Siebring.

“We don’t have enforcement powers, all we can do is knock on the door give them a visit, and tell them basically what the rules are.”

Siebring declined to identify the couple, citing privacy and noting that their personal information was in the hands of bylaw officers, not the mayor’s office.

He said the community asked for help with enforcement from the province, but got nowhere.

Because the Quarantine Act is a federal law, enforcement is actually a responsibility of the RCMP.

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In a briefing Friday, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry acknowledged the B.C. RCMP was still working out “protocols” around enforcing the act.

Those gains could be put at risk as Canada repatriates travellers stuck on cruise ships or trapped by the thousands in countries like India and Peru. As of Friday, there were nearly 400,000 Canadians abroad who had registered with Global Affairs.

Siebring said he was heartened to hear provincial health officials acknowledge gaps in enforcement of the measures.

He added that he was pleased to see B.C. redeploying liquor and cannabis inspectors to help bylaw officers enforce provincial public health orders.

“This is an order, it’s not a suggestion, it’s the law,” he said.

“Now we just need to make sure the law is properly enforced.”

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