The Canadian government announced that it is tightening restrictions on travelers from Ebola-affected countries in West Africa by imposing self-monitoring and quarantine measures.
High-risk travelers who have been in the three countries hardest hit by the Ebola outbreak Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia will be required to self-isolate at home or at ‘a facility,’ preferably near designated treatment centers in each province, for the 21-day incubation period. Travelers deemed low-risk who had no known exposure to Ebola would be required to self-monitor for 21 days, including twice-a-day temperature checks.
The policy statement by the Public Health Agency of Canada yesterday did not specify what kind of facility should handle high-risk travelers, or who would decide which of the options would apply to a particular case.
Gregory Taylor, Canada’s chief public health officer, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Rumors have circulated for some time that the federal government was considering strict quarantine rules that would apply for returning health-care workers but the idea reportedly met with considerable resistance from provincial governments.
Opponents expressed concern that applying strict quarantine restrictions on returning health care workers who did not show Ebola symptoms and had risked their lives would deter others from volunteering to help stem the outbreak in West Africa.
The new rules, which took effect day, create two classes of travelers from West Africa: high risk and low risk.
The rules apply to people who are not evidently ill when they arrive in Canada, but might be incubating the disease. Anyone who is ill with symptoms consistent with Ebola would be isolated until tests determine if the person is infected.
Returning health-care workers will not be automatically slotted into the high-risk category. Instead, the guidelines say local public health authorities can decide on a case-by- case basis whether to require a returning medical worker to go into quarantine in their home or in a facility for 21 days.
The statement suggests that a health-care worker who had been exposed to Ebola after having a breach in their personal protective equipment may be considered high risk.
The policy applies to all travelers from Ebola-affected countries. But because Canada has already stopped issuing visas to residents and nationals of Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia, in reality the policy will mostly apply to returning health-care workers and people who work for humanitarian aid groups.