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Only 1 coronavirus-related charge laid by Guelph police so far

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Ontario Premier Doug Ford said Monday he may have to considering laying charges or delivering a “hefty fine” to individuals who are caught breaking rules around physical distancing. “It’s a shame a handful of people are ruining it for everyone,” Ford said.

Guelph police say they are taking an education-first approach when it comes to enforcing the rules under the province’s emergency orders.

Only one charge has been laid against a business that was deemed to be non-essential, and the city’s bylaw officers have not fined anyone or issued any charges.

READ MORE: Three fined under COVID-19 emergency orders for golfing on closed Chedoke Golf Course

On Wednesday, the city said several warnings have been given and there are open investigations related to non-essential businesses, which could lead to more charges.

Guelph police Const. Kyle Grant said the orders have been put in place to protect the community but officers have been assessing each situation on its own merit.

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“We’re going to generally approach it with an education-first approach and then take progressive steps towards enforcement at that time, if necessary,” he said.

The Ontario government’s emergency orders have banned gatherings of more than five people, except under certain circumstances, and closed businesses deemed non-essential along with certain outdoor amenities such as off-leash dog parks, benches and playgrounds.

Grant said usually a conversation would be had before any fines are imposed.

“The officer would speak with the people, educate them regarding the law, provide the knowledge and let them know the importance of following these regulations,” he said.

Guelph’s only fine was issued on March 27 to a business deemed non-essential near Woodlawn Road and Woolwich Street.

In that case, police said business’ doors were locked and the responding officer wasn’t able to speak with the owner.

A 48-year-old woman from York Region was issued a summons to appear in court on July 16.

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“Since there haven’t been any further charges laid, that would be an indication that people are taking this advice and they are following direction from the police,” Grant said.

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READ MORE: Woman charged after non-essential business opened during COVID-19 pandemic: Guelph police

Guelph police have also laid out where residents can direct their concerns.

Questions or concerns about non-essential businesses, outdoor recreational amenities, organized events and social gatherings, and physical distancing can be directed to bylaw enforcement at 519-837-2529 or police’s non-emergency line at 519-824-1212.

Price gauging concerns can be directed to the Ontario government’s website and concerns about returning travellers failing to self-isolate can be reported to Public Health at 1-800-265-7293.

More information can be found on Guelph police’s website.

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.

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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.

For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.

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