The B.C. government says that hundreds of people have received COVID-19 fines since new safety measures were implemented in August.
According to the province, 290 fines totalling $203,320 have been issued to rule-breakers who have been caught not following COVID-19 regulations.
B.C. says that 45 tickets, carrying a fine of $2,300, have been issued to owners or organizers contravening the provincial health officer’s (PHO) order on gatherings and events.
Additionally, 21 tickets have been issued, carrying a fine of $2,300, for contravention of the PHO Food and Liquor Serving Premises Order.
And 224 $230 tickets have been issued to individuals who refused to comply with direction from law enforcement.
British Columbians can expect law enforcement to be on high alert over the holiday season as well, as on Wednesday, the provincial government announced it was expanding the COVID-19 ticket enforcement and workplace safety measures.
Mike Farnworth, minister of public safety and solicitor general, says in a statement that he has asked gaming investigators, conservation officers, community safety unit inspectors as well as liquor and cannabis inspectors to support police and increase COVID-19 enforcement.
Farnworth has also directed the Insurance Corp. of B.C. to send unpaid fines to collections after the initial 30-day payment or dispute period ends.
“Our police departments have been working hard to educate the public and issue violation tickets when necessary,” said Farnworth. “Provincial enforcement officers can already issue violation tickets, but we want to increase the use of the tools available to them. This will put more boots on the ground to actively enforce Emergency Program Act orders and better ensure we can penalize those who insist on putting their own selfishness above public health.”
The province is also asking WorkSafeBC to increase the number of inspections it performs at workplaces.
“Increasing in-person inspections in sectors of particular concern will help prevent future outbreaks and aligns with our co-ordinated approach to COVID-19 enforcement. Our government is firmly committed to keeping people safe at work,” noted Harry Bains, Minister of Labour.
Farnworth says the move will ensure the province can penalize those who put their own “selfishness” above public health.
The announcement follows Premier John Horgan’s criticism on Tuesday of people who ignore or try to find loopholes in the province’s COVID-19 restrictions.
“While I’m pleased to report that vaccinations in B.C. have begun, which is a reason to celebrate, we need to continue our efforts in the months ahead to protect our province’s most vulnerable,” said Premier Horgan. “The provincial health officer’s directions and the solicitor general’s orders are clear. Right now, we all need to mask up in indoor public spaces and not gather with anyone outside our household, and today’s expanded enforcement measures will help us change behaviours and bend the curve of infections back down.”
Since the pandemic began, the provincial government says police agencies issued 72 violation tickets to individuals who were in contravention of the Federal Quarantine Act as well, totalling $78,500.
The government adds that if violation tickets do not act as a deterrent, police can recommend charges in relation to the offence and courts can impose additional penalties and jail time.