In an era of new emergency powers intended to fight a pandemic, Canadian police are turning to a tried-and-true criminal charge: fraud under $5,000.
Police in Southern Ontario cities laid that charge in two COVID-19-related cases this week, one that sparked community panic over the spread of the new coronavirus and the other trying to capitalize on that fear.
On March 13, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told any Canadians abroad “it is time for you to come home.”
Who needs to self-isolate:
- The government asked all Canadians returning from any international travel to self-isolate.
- Anyone who has come in close contact of someone diagnosed with COVID-19 must also self-isolate.
What is self-isolation:
Self-isolation requires you to stay at home, monitor for symptoms, and avoid contact with other people for 14 days, according to the Government of Canada website.
Expectations for those in self-isolation:
- Stay home from work and school; avoid public transit;
- Have supplies such as groceries dropped off at your door;
- Keep a two-metre distance from other people;
- Stay clear of elderly people and anyone with compromised immune systems or chronic conditions.
And some tips to maintain your health and wellness:
- Give your days some structure: Shower and put on jeans, says Lia Grainger. If you work from home, make a separate space for work. Try meditation.
- Don’t just binge Netflix; lift a little: Paul Landini suggests body-weight exercises, or skipping rope to get in some cardio.
- When you do need a break, try one of these 10 books that offer lessons from past pandemics or consult Barry Hertz’s guide to the best Canadian streaming options.
Additional Globe resources:
- If you think may have the new coronavirus, here’s what to do.
- Healthy pantry staples to stock up on and other items to purchase.
- How to manage your anxiety and keep up a fitness routine.
- A visual guide to how you can help “flatten the curve.”
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The first case involves a teenaged McDonald’s employee in Hamilton who is accused of trying to get out of work by giving her manager a fake doctor’s note – one saying that she had been diagnosed with COVID-19.
The fallout was significant. The restaurant shut down for days as professional cleaning crews sanitized it. Fear spread from co-workers, to customers and then rippled out to the wider public.
While a faked doctor’s note would not normally result in criminal charges, in this case "it came down to impact on the community,” said Hamilton Police Service spokeswoman Constable Lorraine Edwards.
She said she would not speculate about why the 18-year-old – who also faces mischief and forgery charges – allegedly acted as she did. A court date is scheduled for mid-May.
The second case involves a 43-year-old Toronto man who is accused of trying to ship “prohibited” home-testing kits for COVID-19 to the United States. “There are no legitimate ‘home test kits’ available,” the Toronto Police Service said in a statement announcing the arrest.
Only qualified medical professionals and equipment can tell people whether they have the disease, and authorities say they are cracking down.
In early March, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued a bulletin saying it would pursue all available sanctions against anyone caught selling non-approved testing kits.
On Friday, the federal government issued its own bulletin: “Health Canada has received reports about health products that make false or misleading claims related to COVID-19,” it said, adding that the department has “issued letters to multiple companies directing them to immediately remove these claims from their websites and advertising materials.”
U.S. and Canadian investigators teamed up to target the Toronto man this week after a parcel was seized at the border by American agents. Inside were 25 testing kits being shipped from Canada. Police say several similar packages got through customs previously.
The 43-year-old was arrested in East Toronto and is to appear in court in late May.
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