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Coronavirus: Violators – what to do about them? Not sure yet.

You know your Calgary neighbour has returned from international travel and you see them out and about in the community during the coronavirus pandemic.  

Perhaps a business – a local gym, let’s say – is keeping the doors open to preferred customers, hoping to stay under the radar of local public health, allowing people to take their anxiety out on a treadmill or by pumping iron.

Well, according to the Public Health Act, it’s not legal.

Several people have reached out to LiveWire Calgary to ask about the penalties for people who seemingly flout the public health ordinance and continue carrying at though it’s business as usual.

The reminder that we’re up to 146 coronavirus cases, our first death, and an increase in community spread, just isn’t enough for them to heed the warning.

So, what are the penalties, and who should we report it to?

That’s where there’s a little concern – as there is with many rules like this; ones that have a prescribed penalty, but no real teeth to enforce it.

Here’s one example we were sent. We’re not going to incriminate the business that sent it, because we’re sure they’re complying by now.

What are the public health penalties?

If you look at Alberta’s Public Health Act, the penalties can vary. They’re outlined in section 73.

When asked for further clarification, the province provided this response.

“Anyone violating the prohibitions can be subject to penalties under the Public Health Act. The nature of these penalties can vary. Any person who contravenes an order of the Chief Medical Officer of Health is guilty of an offence and is liable to a fine of $100 per day,” wrote Tom McMillan, Assistant Director of Communications for Alberta Health, in an email.

“Police officers have the authority to enforce these orders. Also, the Minister or a regional health authority may apply to the Court for any order it considers necessary to enforce the Public Health Act.”

We asked the City of Calgary who’s responsible for enforcement. They weren’t able to provide a direct response to the question and deferred, to a certain degree, to the province.

Calgary Emergency Management Agency Chief Tom Sampson, when asked about this during a recent daily coronavirus briefing, hoped that instead of enforcement, people would adhere to the rules out of a sense of public duty.

Sampson said they’ve heard of some businesses that were in violation. He said what’s happened is that when people have found out, the community has almost “shamed” them.

“Our whole goal is not about fining anybody. It’s about having a common understanding in the community that this is the wrong thing to do,” Sampson said.

“You know, if you think that you’ve slipped the system and you’re operating your facility and you figured out a way to get around it, that’s not cool.”

Coronavirus violator reporting process under discussion

Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer of Health they’ve heard concerns about compliance with the public health emergency rules.

She said if you do have concerns DO NOT call 9-1-1. That line needs to remain open for true emergencies, Dr. Hinshaw said.

“We are working with Justice and the Solicitor General to develop a process for responding to these concerns. And we will provide an update when we reach a solution,” she said.