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Travellers find Nova Scotia’s COVID compliance checks aren’t as advertised

Some travellers go unchecked for 14-day isolation periods, no consequences for no response

3 min read
caption Despite the rules being played out clearly, some travellers are finding that follow through when it comes to compliance calls don't happen as promised and consequences for missing them are minimal.
Ben Roth

Travellers entering Nova Scotia since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic have been subject to enhanced security protocols, but many are finding that those measures are lacking — if they’re implemented at all.

The most restrictive of them is the requirement for travellers to isolate for 14 days upon entry, a requirement that the Department of Health says it backed up at first through compliance checks by phone and, starting Aug. 22, through email. The government also claimed that three missed checks would result in police going to the given address of the person isolating to ensure that they actually are at that location.

“During that first two week isolation I didn’t get a single call or a single door knock,” Greg Horne, a rotational worker, said in an interview. Horne had three separate occurrences of isolating under the restriction, none of which received daily compliance checks as advertised.

He said that there were no checks the second time either, but that the security checkpoint at the airport was “stepped up” each time.

For his third period in isolation, which ended in October, Horne said he did get calls, but that not until the second last and final days. When he questioned the agent about it over the phone after expecting calls under three different circumstances, they claimed that they had too many people arriving to properly track them all the way they wanted to.

A Freedom of Information request filed by The Signal revealed numbers on the compliance checks, including that there were 85,824 calls made, 39,412 emails sent, and 4,005 escalated visits made between July 1 and Aug. 31. These numbers are the totals and do not reflect the number of people as some travellers were contacted multiple times, as well as the people who were not contacted at all.

Also in the FOI was a request for the number of travellers that entered the province during the same period as above, however the reply said that Internal Services did not keep track of those numbers.

Horne never received compliance emails, even after having isolation periods after Aug. 22 when the new rules came into effect.

Ally Strachan did receive emails when she arrived at the start of November, and had been committed to checking in every day. She travelled to Halifax from British Columbia, and isolated for more than 14 days after being joined by her partner partway through. 

Six days into her isolation she forgot, and after four days of not replying, she got an email asking if she was still there. She replied to and continued checking in after that point. While a compliance check was made, it was not the escalated check which was said to occur after three days missed.

“My partner didn’t do any of the check-ins and didn’t get any phone calls,” Strachan said in an interview.

Marla MacInnis, spokesperson for the Department of Health and Wellness, responded to an email inquiry from The Signal, outlining the same processes for compliance checks which are on the Government of Nova Scotia website, but did not respond to questions about who is prioritized for compliance checks or how the checks might be administered better in the future.

In the response MacInnis also said that the 14 day isolation relied on the honour system, and that travellers “know it’s the right thing to do to keep others safe.”

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About the author

Ben Roth

Ben Roth is a freelance journalist working in Edmonton, Alberta. He is a graduate of the University of King’s College journalism program where...

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