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Manitoba sees busiest week of COVID-19 enforcement, hospitals continue to struggle

Manitoba COVID-19 enforcement officers say they dolled out 161 tickets over the past week, the most tickets they've handed out since enforcement efforts began in April 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes

While Manitoba’s hospitals continue to struggle with rising COVID-19 cases, those enforcing public health orders say they’ve never been busier dealing with people who refuse to follow the rules meant to stem the surging infection rate.

The province says a total of 161 tickets were handed out during the week ending May 30, with the majority — 144 with a $1,296 fine — going to those caught at gatherings banned under current health orders.

Read more: Arrest warrant issued in Manitoba for Ontario anti-mask rally organizer Chris Sky

Another nine $298-tickets went to people caught not wearing a mask in indoor public places, one $5,150-ticket for breaking the Federal Quarantine Act was handed out, and one business was hit with a $5,000 ticket.

Over the week the province also, for the first time, issued six warrants for repeat offenders, which come with a maximum penalty of $100,000.

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Click to play video: 'Winnipeg mayor calls for ‘significant fines’ for organizers of protests violating public health orders' Winnipeg mayor calls for ‘significant fines’ for organizers of protests violating public health orders
Winnipeg mayor calls for ‘significant fines’ for organizers of protests violating public health orders – May 21, 2021

One of those warrants was issued for Chris “Sky” Saccoccia, the notorious Ontario man behind a recent rally in Winnipeg who has been organizing numerous rallies across the country against COVID-19-related public health orders banning large gatherings.

While Saccoccia avoided arrest by not entering Manitoba, officials have previously said at least one of the other warrants has resulted in an arrest.

Police have not named the subjects of the other arrest warrants.

Read more: Gatherings held despite Manitoba COVID-19 rules resulted in 88 tickets last week, province says

“Although the vast majority of Manitobans are doing their part to protect themselves and others, a small minority of people continue to disregard the public health orders and put the health of others at risk,” officials said in a Tuesday release.

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The province said enforcement officers are continuing to investigate several large gatherings and rallies held in Manitoba, and further charges are expected.

In the week ending May 23 officials issued 102 tickets for violations of COVID-19 public health orders, again with the vast majority going to those caught holding gatherings currently banned.

Meanwhile, health officials have been forced to ship critically ill COVID-19 patients out of province for care in recent weeks in an effort to protect Manitoba’s ICU capacity.

Since May 18, at least 40 patients have been sent to hospitals in Ontario and Saskatchewan to cope with the ongoing surge, according to data released Monday on a provincial website tracking out-of-province ICU numbers.

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Read more: Another Manitoban with COVID-19 has died, province reports 303 new cases

On Monday, Shared Health said 246 patients had so far been admitted to Manitoba ICUs in May, blowing past the 50 admitted in April.

In total, 308 people were listed in hospital with COVID-19 Monday as health officials announced 303 new cases and one death.

There were 71 COVID-19 patients in Manitoba ICUS on Monday, including a record-setting 17 COVID-19 patients under the age of 40.

Click to play video: 'Enforcement frustration' Enforcement frustration
Enforcement frustration – May 18, 2021

Since enforcement started in April 2020, the province says a total of 4,508 warnings and 1,681 tickets have been issued to individuals and businesses, resulting in more than $2.3 million in fines.

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Last month the province announced it would begin issuing double fines for repeat offenders caught breaking COVID-19 public health orders.

Read more: COVID-19: Manitobans who received AstraZeneca shot can get Pfizer, Moderna for 2nd dose

An extra $100 default convection penalty is also added to unpaid fines, and the province warns those who don’t respond to tickets will be prohibited from renewing a driver’s license or vehicle registration until the ticket is paid.

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

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.

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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. In situations where you can’t keep a safe distance from others, public health officials recommend the use of a non-medical face mask or covering to prevent spreading the respiratory droplets that can carry the virus. In some provinces and municipalities across the country, masks or face coverings are now mandatory in indoor public spaces.

For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, visit our coronavirus page.

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