TORONTO -- Public Safety Minister Bill Blair has said irregular border crossers are now being screened for symptoms of COVID-19 and placed in 14-day self-isolation.

Blair said at a ministerial update on COVID-19 in Ottawa Tuesday that he had a number of enquiries about individuals who cross the Canadian border “irregularly, seeking refugee status.”

“Those individuals are immediately taken into custody by the RCMP, they are screened thoroughly by our customs border officers,” Blair said.

This process takes about 24 hours, he explained.

“They are now also being screened for any evidence of symptoms and questioned about where they have been,” he said.

Under normal circumstances, while determining eligibility for refugee status, these people are usually given temporary shelter.

“But because of the need for the 14-day self-isolation, we are now making separate arrangements for those individuals to be placed in appropriate shelter in order to accommodate the requirement for the period of isolation,” Blair said.

“We are doing this because we believe it is necessary and in the best interests of keeping all Canadians healthy and safe.”

An irregular border crosser is someone who arrives in Canada outside an official Canada Border Services Agency port of entry.

Since the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada began tracking irregular border crossers in February 2017, Canada has recorded 54,739 people claiming refugee status.

As of December 2019, 12,255 have been accepted, 10,627 have been rejected and 29,843 cases are pending.