Province says more enforcement for latest COVID-19 restrictions coming

Province says more enforcement for latest COVID-19 restrictions coming
WatchThe province has promised increased fines and heightened enforcement for the new COVID-19 rules. But for now, enforcement in the hands of retail workers.

It’s the most complex phase of the pandemic yet. New orders making masks mandatory indoors and keeping socialization to just your household were introduced on Thursday.

The rules are possibly the toughest so far, to enforce.

“I’ve been serving for four years, I enjoy serving. But never in my life have I experienced such push back from guests,” said Austin Everett, who works part-time while he’s in university.

“I don’t want to be treating adults like they’re children. It’s really shocking.”

When people refuse to wear maks, frontline customer service workers, often young and making minimum wage, bearing the brunt.

“You’re asking them to do a role reversal. You know the saying ‘the customer is always right’? Well, that kind of creates tension when now, predominantly the enforcement, the day-to-day minute-to-minute enforcement is going to be those customer service people,” said Dr. Kiffer Card, a behavioural epidemiologist at the University of Victoria.

Since March, the real public health enforcers have been those in customer service.

“I don’t think it should fall on us,” said Everett.

“You can’t tip me enough to be disrespectful to me. It’s never appropriate. And I find I’ve had to deal with that a lot more because of the pandemic. And I totally get it, we’re tired, I don’t want to wear a mask, it’s super uncomfortable, but we’re all doing this, we’re all in this together.”

On Thursday, the province’s top doctor promised more aggressive penalties and heightened enforcement is coming.

“It does give owners and operators of retail spaces, public spaces, the ability to call on police and does mean there will be fines and ways to deal with public safety under the public safety act, so the details will become more clear over the next week,” said Dr. Bonnie Henry on the current plan being worked out by the Ministry of Public Safety and the Solicitor General.

For now, local police forces wait for direction. Full guidelines are expected to be released on Monday, but Henry said businesses around the province can expect a bigger crackdown on the rules moving forward.

In the meantime, when it comes to policing the new rules, epidemiologists suggest approaching people with compassion, and resist the urge to take matters into your own hands.

“We may have an internal drive to ‘police’ our neighbours or people around us, and we just have to realize people are making the decisions as best they can,” said Dr. Card.

If the rule-breaking is egregious, the province still suggests calling bylaw or your local non-emergency police line.

And if you do decide to head into stores, follow the rules.

“If I don’t come in with my mask, I can’t work,” said Everett.

“If you can’t come in without your mask, you can’t eat here.”


Kori SidawayKori Sidaway

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