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Manitoba hiring private security to help enforce coronavirus restrictions

Click to play video: 'More enforcement help' More enforcement help
The province is stepping up enforcement of public health orders, hiring a private security firm, and retroactively ticketing protestors in Steinbach. But the way it's being done is raising some concerns – Nov 17, 2020

Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister says the province is hiring a private security company to help enforce restrictions in place to curb the spread of COVID-19.

At a Tuesday press conference Pallister said the province has signed a contract with G4S Canada to help hand out fines for infractions such as gathering in groups larger than five.

He said G4S may be better equipped than some provincial workers to deal with threatening situations.

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More enforcement help – Nov 17, 2020

Read more: Manitoba reports 10 additional coronavirus deaths, 392 new cases Monday

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“The vast majority of Manitobans are stepping up and following the fundamentals to protect themselves, their loved ones and their community. We’re targeting those who refuse to follow public health advice and put others at risk,” said Pallister in a government release.

“Today is another step in our enforcement efforts to help protect our most vulnerable Manitobans and ensure our health-care system is there for all Manitobans, when they need it.”

A provincial release says the private security force is currently undergoing specialized training through Commissionaires Manitoba, and once fully operational, the government expects G4S will add “upwards of 90 personnel” to the province’s enforcement efforts.

A government spokesperson tells Global News the contract signed with G4S is an “outline agreement”, meaning services are “as and when needed.” The current contract will be in place until Dec. 31, with a maximum value of $1 million, and there is an option to extend if needed, the spokesperson said.

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The government last week closed restaurants, bars, gyms, non-essential retail stores and other facilities in an attempt to reduce increasing COVID-19 caseloads.

Read more: Further restrictions possible as Manitoba businesses find ways to stay open amid lockdowns

Provincial fines for individuals breaking COVID-19 health orders are set at $1,296, while fines for businesses are up to $5,000.

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Late last month the province announced it was giving municipal bylaw officers the power to enforce public health orders.

Click to play video: 'Manitoban businesses skirt health orders to stay open; authorities suggest tighter measures' Manitoban businesses skirt health orders to stay open; authorities suggest tighter measures
Manitoban businesses skirt health orders to stay open; authorities suggest tighter measures – Nov 16, 2020

The RCMP and other police agencies, the Health Protection Unit, Manitoba Conservation and Climate, Workplace Safety and Health, and the Liquor, Gaming and Cannabis Authority all also have the power to issue fines.

The province said Tuesday nearly 3,300 personnel across various agencies are currently able to enforce public health orders.

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Read more: Ignoring COVID-19 restrictions will net people $1.3K fine, $5k fine for businesses in Manitoba

According to the government’s release, a team of provincial employees sent out to enforce the rules over the weekend had more than 225 interactions with businesses, organizations, and individuals across Manitoba.

During the past week the province says 32 tickets were issued for offences including large gathering sizes, failure to quarantine, and violating a northern travel ban.

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More COVID-19 enforcement in Manitoba – Nov 5, 2020

On Tuesday Manitoba RCMP said they received 253 calls related to COVID-19 between Nov. 2 and Nov. 13. Mounties say 42 of those calls led to a verbal warning, and in eight instances fines were issued for failing to comply with a provincial emergency order.

Since April RCMP say they’ve issued 119 warnings and levied 50 fines connected to COVID-19 health orders.

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Read more: About 1% of COVID-19 complaints in Manitoba lead to fines

Pallister says the province’s tip line and online reporting site for reporting COVID-19 infractions have received more than 13,500 calls since April, but added not all of the tips have been credible.

The provincial release says a number of tips have been unrelated to breaches of health orders, and, in some cases, have been “calls that border on frivolous.”

“We need Manitobans to call the tip line appropriately in order to help ensure we’re utilizing our resources in the most effective way possible,” Pallister said.

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Outside Winnipeg reports of possible public health breaches can be made by calling 204-945-3744 or 1-866-626-4862. In the city reports can be made through 311.

Manitoba health officials said 10 more Manitobans had died from COVID-19 and 392 new cases were been identified Monday.

Read more: Manitoba municipal bylaw officers given authority to enforce coronavirus orders

The latest cases brought the province’s total number of cases reported since March to 11,339. The province’s death toll rose to 172.

Manitoba’s chief public health officer, Dr. Brent Roussin, will give an update on the province’s COVID-19 numbers at 12:30 p.m. Tuesday.

–With files from The Canadian Press and Brittany Greenslade

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