Q: I see someone out, who just got back from vacation. Can I call police?
A: According to OPP officer Peterina Taylor-Hertz, “there’s been a lot of confusion between self-isolation and those directed to quarantine. Self isolation is not an offence – messaging that is out there is to follow public health best practices – avoiding contact with people that are sick, social distancing and washing your hands. If a person has been directed by government of Canada/public health agency of Canada (phac) to quarantine, the Quarantine Act applies and is enforceable.”
As of last Wednesday, the federal government enacted the Quarantine Act. According to Acting Medical Officer of Health Dr. Ian Gemmill, anyone entering the country will now be directed to self-quarantine by border agents, who will then forward their name and address to the Northwestern Health Unit. Health officials will then monitor the individual, to make sure they stay inside.
The enforceable quarantine requires that the individual not leave their home for any reason – no walks, no grocery store runs. They will need to arrange outside help to get supplies delivered.
If there are others in the household who were not travelling, they are asked to self-isolate, but are allowed to leave the house for supplies. They are required to keep at least two metres from others at all times, and go out as little as possible, said Gemmill. However, if those individuals develop symptoms, they will be legally quarantined as well, he added.
Although it wasn’t against the law to be out of the house after a trip before the Quarantine Act was established, Gemmill asks that citizens encourage their neighbours to “do the right thing and stay home. If they don’t understand, direct them to our site or our hotline, so we can explain it to them.” According to Petrina-Hertz, residents can also call the police at 1-888-310-1122.
It is now also against the law for social groups over five individuals, who don’t live in the same home, to congregate. It carries a fine of $750 to $100,000 for individuals.
Q: I heard there are check points at the Manitoba border. Can I still leave the province?
A: According to Manitoba’s Government website, “the Manitoba government will establish five highway checkpoints and provide information in airports to help inform travellers about the public health measures in place to slow the spread of COVID-19, Justice Minister Cliff Cullen and Infrastructure Minister Ron Schuler announced today.
“We must do everything we can to help reduce the spread of COVID-19 in our communities and on our health-care system,” said Cullen. “This approach will help ensure travellers know they must self-isolate, what the province’s state of emergency means to them and other important public health information.
By being informed, we can reduce the risk to Manitobans and help keep our communities healthy and safe.”
These checkpoints are established under the authority of The Public Health Act. No one will be denied entry into Manitoba at these locations.”
However, Ian Gemmill, Acting Medical Officer of Health for the Northwestern Health Unit, would prefer if no-one ventures across provincial lines – or out of their home communities at all – for anything but essential travel, to limit the spread of COVID-19.
Essential travel would include medical appointments which can’t be delayed, or to care for a critically ill family member, he said.
Those who have travelled beyond the region should then engage in self-solation after their return – particularly from high infection regions like Southern Ontario.
Every time someone leaves the community, they run the risk of catching the disease. “And you run the risk of being the person who brings it back to your community,” he said. “Now is the time to do the right thing, and that is to stay home.”
Q: I have important lab work that needs to be done. How do I access the lab?
A: According to clinic staff, you can access the lab like normal, by signing in at the clinic’s main desk.
However, changes have been made with LifeLabs, which is the corperation which owns the medical lab.
Lab hours in many locations have shortened, and some have closed entirely. In Fort Frances, the Lab has reduced hours to 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday to Wednesday, and 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. on Thursday and Friday. To support social distancing, the company is also requesting that clients book an appointment. Because hours are subject to change without notice, clients should check the current hours by visiting www.locations.lifelabs.com.
It will show not only current hours, but allows clients, during business hours, to book an appointment through the Save my Spot feature beside the hours of operation listings.
Q: I’ve heard there’s a new case. How do I find out if it’s true?
A. Individual health units in the province have been charged with distributing local information.
For our region, the Northwestern Health Unit posts updates on its website, www.NWHU.on.ca.
According to Dr Ian Gemmill, Acting Medical Officer of Health for the NWHU, the platform is in flux, changing the information presented as the pandemic unfolds. At the current time, it is updated daily at 11 a.m., with total numbers of confirmed cases, negative tests and outstanding tests.
Earlier this week, the NWHU, in response to public interest, has begun releasing testing data broken down by community. However, it does not represent testing being done by outside agencies, such as the Native and Inuit Health Authority. Although that agency is in constant contact with the NWHU, their tests are reported separately, he said.