Alta. introduces fines for COVID violations

Alberta confirmed 61 new cases of COVID-19 in the province within the past 24 hours, bringing the total to 419. The continuing rise in cases has led the government to impose fines on violators of certain health protection requirements.

As many as 33 of the 419 confirmed cases may have been community transmitted as opposed to spreading from international travellers, said Dr. Deena Hinshaw, chief provincial medical officer.

To date 20 people are hospitalized and eight are in intensive care.

Hinshaw said an outbreak in an adult group home for people with developmental disabilities was confirmed last night. One staff member and two residents in that facility have tested positive.

“We are also aware of nine cases to date in staff and residents of long-term care or other continuing care facilities,” said Hinshaw. Those include six at the McKenzie town facility in Calgary and on each in two different Edmonton facilities.

As a result, Alberta Health is implementing more stringent measures regarding access to seniors lodges, nursing homes, long-term care facilities and addiction treatment facilities. Details are on the Alberta Health web page.

Also announced today are fines and enforcement relating to crowd size restrictions and 14-day isolation for travellers returning to Alberta, as well as mandated isolation of those confirmed with the virus and those in contact with them.

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney said the rise in cases indicates some people are not getting the message.

“Sadly, not everyone seems to get it.… Too many people are ignoring our public health guidelines and in so doing they endanger the health of others, particularly the most vulnerable,” said Kenney.

“Today we are moving from asking people to act responsibly to instead using the full force of the law to legally require that people act responsibly to protect public health.”

Police and peace officers can now issue tickets of up to $1,000 to violators of the limits on mass gatherings and to those who do not isolate themselves if they’ve been diagnosed or have symptoms of COVID-19.

Courts will be able to administer fines up to $100,000 for first offences and up to $500,000 for second or egregious cases, said Kenney.

Health Minister Tyler Shandro said people have been reporting violations of the various guidelines that limit large gatherings and restrict numbers in restaurants, bars and other facilities.

He said about 1,600 complaints are being received daily. Having peace officers deal with those complaints rather than only public health inspectors will ease the latters’ burden to respond, he said.

Kenney added that rising numbers of confirmed COVID cases indicate further action is needed.

“It does hopefully send a message. That’s really what we’re trying to do here, send a message. This is not a hint. It’s not a suggestion. It is an absolute legal requirement that under certain circumstances people must isolate themselves.”

Contact barb.glen@producer.com

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