Albertans who ignore provincial guidelines to contain the spread of COVID-19 will soon receive tickets for violating these directives.
Premier Jason Kenney announced the new measures in a press conference Wednesday afternoon, saying that not everyone appears to understand the severity of the pandemic.
“The overwhelming majority of Albertans have been very responsible and civic-minded in responding to this crisis. Most of us understand that we all have a role to play in limiting the spread of disease by staying at home as much as possible, for practicing rigorous hygiene, maintaining a safe distance from other people, and respecting the restrictions that have been put in place to limit social interaction,” said Kenney.
“But sadly, not everyone seems to get it.”
As a result, Kenney says that the government has been pushed to legally enforce the public to act responsibly.
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“Too many people are ignoring our public health guidelines, and in so doing, they endanger the health of others, particularly the most vulnerable,” said Kenney.
“Today, we are moving from asking people to act responsibly to instead using the full force of the law to legally require that people act responsibly to protect public health.”
Under the Provincial Offences Procedures Act, community peace officers and police will now be able to issue fines of up to $1,000 to enforce public health orders as they relate to coronavirus.
“If you violate the rules we’ve laid down, you’re subject to stringent penalties and fines with rigorous enforcement behind them.”
The provisions apply to the current limit on mass gatherings to 50 attendees, and mandatory self-isolation to people in the following circumstances:
- Any individual diagnosed with coronavirus or exhibiting the symptoms of coronavirus such as cough and fever.
- Anyone returning to Alberta from outside of Canada, and those who have had close contact with an individual who is a confirmed or probable case of COVID-19.
- Returning international travellers must self-isolate for 14 days or they will be subject to newly imposed significant penalties.
- This also includes operational daycares, except those supporting critical care workers, public recreational facilities, bars and nightclubs, and non-essential visits to continuing care and long-term care facilities.
The provincial government is also working with municipalities about the possibility of extending these enforcement powers to local bylaw officers.
In addition, courts will have additional powers to issue fines of $100,000 for a first offence, and up to $500,000 for a subsequent offence or more serious violations.
Minister of Health Tyler Shandro says that the system is complaints driven.
“When someone makes a complaint, a public health officer goes and investigates and decides whether or not to impose a fine or some other measure,” said Shandro.
“Right now they receive 1,600 complaints a day.”
Kenney says the measures are important to send a message to Albertans.
“It is not a hint, it is not a suggestion, it is an absolute legal requirement,” said Kenney.
“[This is a] reasonable, prudent, and necessary response to the escalating COVID-19 outbreak in Alberta.”