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Coronavirus daily briefing – March 25: Fines, community spread

Albertans not adhering to coronavirus public health rules could be hit with a $1,000 fine per offence as measures to stop the spread of COVID-19 ramp up.

More serious offences could be subject to court-imposed fines of $100,000 or $500,000, the province said Tuesday.

These new measures come as Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, announced that there were 61 new cases of COVID-19, raising the provincial total to 419 cases.

Of those 419 cases, Dr. Hinshaw said they suspect that 33 of them are due to community transmission. Twenty people are hospitalized, with eight people in intensive care.

“These are significant case numbers, and they underscore the seriousness of the situation that we face,” said Dr. Hinshaw.

She said these mounting case numbers have her concerned and she said that’s why she backs new measures of public enforcement.

“This step is essential to protect the health and safety of Albertans,” Dr. Hinshaw said.

“The answer is simple. We must all do everything possible to follow all public health recommendations in place. All of us have a role and a responsibility to stop the spread and there are actions that all of us can take.”

Enforcement of the coronavirus public health rules by peace officers, city police

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney said Tuesday that most Albertans understand the need to practice the appropriate public health safety measures.

“But sadly, not everyone seems to get it,” he said.

“Too many people are ignoring our public health guidelines and in so doing they endanger the health of others, particularly the most vulnerable.”

With changes to the Provincial Offences Procedures Act, peace officers, in addition to police, can now issues tickets to enforce the COVID-19 health orders. This includes mass gatherings of 50 or less, mandatory self-isolation (in all of the forms: travel, sickness, etc) – including daycares that don’t fall under the recent exceptions.

“To drive home the importance of everyone adhering to these laws for the protection of public health, community peace officers and police will be able to issue fines of up to $1,000 per violation through tickets,” Premier Kenney said.  

“We are consulting with municipalities, as well, on the possibility of expanding these enforcement powers to municipal bylaw officers. Courts will also have increased powers to administer fines of up to $100,000 for a first offense, and up to half a million dollars for a subsequent defense or for more serious violations.”

Kenney said these measures were being done through a ministerial order under the public health emergency.

“When life returns to normal, we will no longer require these kinds of extraordinary powers,” he said.

Self-isolation pay opens up, crashes

The portal to direct people how to apply for the province’s $1146 in isolation pay opened up earlier Tuesday.

According to Premier Kenney, thousands of people logged in and it crashed the system.

He assured Albertans that Service Alberta was working on it and that more access would be available soon.