Fines are coming to those who flout the public health act and gather during the coronavirus pandemic.
Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister and Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman made the announcement Thursday.
“For those not getting the message, we’ve reached the point … where this needs to stop,” said Bowman.
Effective immediately, fine amounts for breaching these emergency orders will be set at $486 for individuals and $2,542 for businesses.
Currently, only provincial public health officers can hand out those fines. Once the province passes legislation next week, city bylaw inspectors will be able to hand those fines out as well, a city spokesperson said.
Pallister said people should expect to see those officers everywhere.
“In every neighbourhood. Everywhere you are,” Pallister said. “You better change the way you’ve been behaving, and you better do it now, or you’re going to be lighter in the pocket book very very soon.”
On Thursday, the City’s Interim Chief Administrative Officer, Mike Ruta, authorized the issuance of a new order regarding the restriction of activities in City-owned parks, which goes into effect immediately.
The order includes:
- Prohibiting access to any of the following areas or locations within City-owned parks:
- Skateboard sites,
- Play structures,
- Picnic shelters,
- Outdoor barbeques, and
- Athletic and sports fields, pitches, diamonds, greens, courts or similar areas.
It also said people must maintain social distancing requirements while within City owned parks:
- Individuals must maintain a distance of at least two metres from every other individual while within any park, and
- No person may be within a group of 10 or more people.
- The social distancing requirements do not apply to people who can demonstrate that they are living together as members of the same household.
Bowman said city bylaw officers currently hold the ability to hand out $1,000 fines and up to 6 months imprisonment for not respecting City orders.
“Our citizens expect us to be working together, and we are,” said Bowman.
Those people who gather in public with more than 10 people, don’t close their non-essential business or enforce social distancing in businesses are in contravention of the Public Health Act.
The RCMP says they will help the province enforce these measures.
Those who spot non-compliance can call 311, email email@example.com or tweet @cityofwinnipeg.
Outside the city, people can report non-compliance at 204-945-3744 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“In Winnipeg, the province is working in close collaboration with the City of Winnipeg, which will utilize Community Service Ambassadors to participate in public education and awareness, with bylaw officer and support from the Winnipeg Police Service (WPS) where required,” said the province.
Manitoba Justice and the city of Winnipeg will create enforcement units with the Winnipeg Police Service acting in an assistance role, said Pallister.
“These units will be dedicated to enforcing orders along with providing awareness and prevention, responding to complaints and supporting bylaw enforcement officers.”
Bowman said he’s hoping the city will not have to close parks, saying it’s a balancing act of providing space for people to be healthy, while still enforcing the rules.
For Manitoba, parks facilities like washrooms and playgrounds will be closed later Thursday, said Pallister.
As of Wednesday morning, Manitoba had 221 cases in the province. There were 149 active cases, and 69 have recovered from the virus. Three people have died.
Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:
Health officials caution against all international travel. Returning travellers are legally obligated to self-isolate for 14 days, beginning March 26, in case they develop symptoms and to prevent spreading the virus to others. Some provinces and territories have also implemented additional recommendations or enforcement measures to ensure those returning to the area self-isolate.
Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.
To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out.
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