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Manitoba officials stepping up social distancing enforcement ahead of long weekend

Coronavirus outbreak: Manitoba distributes 3,000 enforcement officers to ensure physical distancing
Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister announced on Thursday the distribution of a total of nearly 3,000 enforcement officers across the province to ensure physical distancing orders are being followed as more businesses reopen. They include safety and health officers under The Workplace Safety and Health Act, inspectors under The Liquor Gaming and Cannabis Control Act, park patrol officers under The Provincial Parks Act and more.

Additional enforcement is coming to enforce public health orders, said Manitoba premier Brian Pallister Thursday.

“We have to look, sadly, at additional measures,” said Pallister, after noting that the vast majority of people are complying.

READ MORE: Federal, provincial partnership makes $120M available for Manitoba front-line workers: Pallister

New legislation has now been adopted and enacted under the Public Health Act which gives more powers to some officials allowing them to ticket people who are failing to comply with the orders.

“We’re very sincere and making the effort to beef up that enforcement because of the sad few who refuse to be responsible enough to do the right thing,” Pallister said.

The officials include safety and health officers, liquor and gaming inspectors, park patrol officers, public health officers within Manitoba Agriculture and Resource Development, including food safety inspectors, animal health inspectors and animal protection officers, municipal police and RCMP.

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About 3,000 inspectors and police officers are now able to enforce orders, such as a 10-person limit on public gatherings and a ban on some non-essential retail, he said.

Thursday’s announcement empowers “several hundred” provincial inspectors with new responsibilities.

Pallister says with the May long weekend coming up, more enforcement is needed as more people head outdoors.

“Were encouraging you to be ‘Covid careful’ in cottage country,” he said.

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Individuals can face fines of $486, while businesses can be penalized $2,542 under the health orders.

Nearly 3,000 officials the province listed, more than 2,500 are law enforcement officers which include RCMP and the Winnipeg Police Service.

“The bulk of that 3,000 are police people, men and women, who’ve already had the ability to do these things,” Pallister admitted when asked by reporters. “But we have and they have many, many other duties in addition obviously to just going after someone who is ignoring social distancing rules.”

The City of Winnipeg said from April 11 to May 13, 311 received an average of 38 complaints daily about residents not properly social distancing.

“These complaints are triaged and sent to either Community By-law Enforcement Services, the Winnipeg Police Service, or the Province of Manitoba depending on the nature of the complaint,” a spokesperson said.”

The Winnipeg Police Service told Global News enforcing social distancing orders is not their primary responsibility and said they would leave ticketing up to by-law officers and community ambassadors.

“You’re not going to see police officers going out and attempting to enforce this social distancing or other elements of the Provincial Health Act,” Const. Rob Carver told Global News.

Carver said the service is comprised of nearly 1,400 members with varied roles that would not apply to handing out these tickets.

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“We have officers dedicate to all sorts (of areas) where that would not fall in their job description,” he said. “Child abuse investigators, homicide investigators.”

The current state of emergency is set to expire on May 18. Pallister said more information on possibly extending it further will come up shortly.

On Wednesday, Pallister announced that $120 million from the federal government will be made available as a one-time payment to frontline workers.

The province is figuring out how to best disperse that money and will decide who qualifies in the coming days, he said.

–With files from The Canadian Press

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Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

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.

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

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