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Coronavirus: Quebec police get new power to enforce social distancing, consider new COVID-19 squad

Coronavirus outbreak: 200 Montreal police officers dispatched to help mitigation measures
WATCH: Authorities have made it very clear: If Montrealers gather in the city’s big parks, they will be shut down. The Montreal Police are developing new strategies to enforce social distancing and on Saturday, they added a new tool. Dan Spector reports.

The process of ticketing someone for breaking social distancing rules was made easier for Quebec police officers on Saturday.

Before, police had to send a report to the Crown prosecutor’s office before any charges were laid. Now, officers with the Montreal Police and Surete du Quebec can give a $1,000 ticket on the spot for illegal gatherings both indoor and outdoor.

The new power has been granted by the Directeur des poursuites criminelles et pénales.

“Anyone who commits the infraction is given the ticket immediately,” said Montreal police spokesperson André Durocher. “Psychologically, the impact will be there.”

Quebec continues to re-iterate that gatherings are no longer allowed in an effort to battle the COVID-19 outbreak.

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“All kinds of gatherings are forbidden,” Vice-Premier Genevieve Guilbeault said on Saturday, replacing Premier Francois Legault at the government’s daily briefing.

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“Don’t go out unless it’s necessary. If you do go out, keep your distance.”

Needing more manpower to help enforce social distancing rules, Montreal police are also considering the idea of creating a 200-person coronavirus task force.

“Is it a scenario we’ve looked at? Absolutely,” said Durocher. “We’re looking at various scenarios and none of the scenarios we’ve looked at have been confirmed.”

The city’s big parks all had a strong police presence on Saturday, and the sunny weather drew big crowds. Most appeared to adhere to the rules of keeping a distance of two-metres with others.

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“I think we feel more vulnerable,” Simon Kessler said as he sat on a bench in Lafontaine Park. “We understood it’s not just about old people and we need to be careful, as healthy as we may be. I think that shifted in the last one or two weeks.”

Police patrolled near groups of joggers, exercise groups and people sitting on benches just chatting.

Mayor Valerie Plante has said the parks would be shut down if people break the rules. People who live together are allowed to be closer than two metres.

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