Kenney threatens fines for coronavirus rule breakers: ‘Not everyone seems to get it’
|Toronto Star 25 Mar 2020 at 19:53|
EDMONTON — If Albertans buck the advice from public health officials when it comes to the novel coronavirus , they’ll face stiff new law enforcement measures being brought in by the province.
The grip tightening by Alberta comes a day after it announced its second death due to COVID-19 and along with 61 new cases announced Wednesday, bringing Alberta’s total to 419.
Police and peace officers will soon be able to administer fines against those who violate public health rules and fines of $1,000 could be levied against people not obeying them, said Premier Jason Kenney.
“Sadly, not everyone seems to get it,” he said. “Too many people ignore these guidelines.”
The move follows in the steps of Ontario and Saskatchewan, which also allow for fines against people violating public health guidelines. As the outbreak has continued to spread throughout the country — Canada has nearly 2,000 confirmed cases as of Wednesday — politicians have consistently warned that not heeding the advice of public health officials could usher in stricter rules and tougher sanctions.
In Alberta, there are several cases where people could be subject to fines for disobeying self-isolation and social distancing rules laid out by public health officials.
Such rules include when those returning from international travel must self-isolate for 14 days, when people who are diagnosed or who show symptoms of COVID-19 must self-isolate, and when anyone who has been in close contact with someone diagnosed with COVID-19 must self-isolate for 14 days.
If someone is told by public health officials to self-isolate under these circumstances and doesn’t, they could be facing penalties from law enforcement.
Also under the stricter rules and subject to fines: Mass gatherings of more than 50 people are banned, recreational or entertainment facilities and bars or nightclubs that don’t shut down, and visitation to long-term care facilities when a person isn’t considered an “essential visitor.”
For more serious offences, said Kenney, courts will be allowed to levy fines of up to $100,000 for a first offence and $500,000 for a subsequent one.
The new measures will be enforced using a ministerial order by the provincial government, but Kenney said he wants to see amendments introduced at the legislature in the near future to make them permanent. He wouldn’t give a definitive end date to the expanded powers of law enforcement.
“When life returns to normal, we will no longer require these kinds of extraordinary powers,” said Kenney.
There could be situations where exemptions are made, and the province is also working with law enforcement and health officials on how to manage complaints — which the government suggests can be submitted online.
Coronavirus is just getting started. So why are Alberta and its doctors fighting?
Alberta has recorded two deaths since the outbreak. The death of a woman in her 80s who lived at the McKenzie Towne Continuing Care Centre, a continuing care facility in Calgary, was confirmed on Tuesday, and a man in his 60s in the Edmonton area died last week.
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Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, said Tuesday that there are 11 other residents at the continuing care centre who are showing symptoms, with test results pending, and that there’s an ongoing investigation into the source of infection
The woman who died began to show symptoms Sunday, according to a Tuesday statement from Dr. Rhonda Collins, chief medical officer for the company that runs the facility, Revera Inc. The woman was tested on Monday and on Tuesday the results came back positive. Collins said she learned of the woman’s death that same day.
Two other residents began showing symptoms at the same time as the woman who died and Collins said both tested positive for COVID-19. Both people are in isolation, along with others who live in the same area of the home.