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City of Vancouver seeks big fines, stricter measures as locals ignore social distancing rules

Last Updated Mar 23, 2020 at 7:54 am PDT

FILE -Despite repeated calls for people to social distance amid the COVID-19 pandemic, it looks like many just aren't getting the message. (CityNews Vancouver)

Vancouver City Council set to meet to discuss stringent enforcement measures for those caught not social distancing

Individuals could be ticketed up to $1,000; Businesses that stay open against orders could see fines of up to $50,000

Canada Health Minister Patty Hajdu stressed we may see consequences on the federal level if people don’t get on board

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – Despite the grim scenes playing out in areas of the world hardest-hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, health professionals and government officials are growing increasingly frustrated by those who just don’t seem to understand the severity of the situation.

In an effort to tackle that issue, Vancouver City Council is set to meet virtually Monday morning to discuss more stringent enforcement measures for those not observing social distancing orders.

Fines of up to $50,000 could be imposed on businesses who defy orders to close, should they be prosecuted. Municipal tickets of $1,000 could also be imposed on individuals.

“I saw reports of people hosting house parties, having group picnics on the beach, playing soccer, playing beer pong,” says Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart. “This is not a game. People are dying.”

Stewart adds the city will also look to the province for power to issue an order for non-essential workers to stay home, though that power is not being sought right now.

Monday’s council meeting comes one day after the Vancouver Park Board ordered all recreational facilities within city parks and beaches to close. Logs have also been removed from popular beaches to prevent people from sitting too close together.

Over the weekend, the province ordered all salons, spas, and other personal care services to close, though it stopped short of ordering all non-essential businesses to shutter during the pandemic.

Canada Health Minister Patty Hajdu stressed over the weekend we may start to see consequences for those who blatantly ignore the advice from health authorities, including the potential for jail time.

“It is essential that people are following the advice of public health, and the advice is getting stronger and stronger,” she said. “With that stronger advice will be coming more and more penalties if people don’t listen.”

Today, the federal government is rolling out a $30 million multi-media campaign to advise Canadians on how to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The ads in English and in French feature Canada’s chief public health officer, Dr. Theresa Tam.

As of Monday morning, there are at least 1,472 cases in Canada, and 21 people have died as a result of infection.

Communities around the world struggle with containment

Over the weekend, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo predicted between 40 and 80 per cent of the state’s population may become infected with COVID-19. But despite the rapid spike in cases, people are still gathering to socialize in parks.

“It’s insensitive. It’s arrogant. It’s self-destructive. It’s disrespectful to other people. And it has to stop and it has to stop now,” he says.

New York has, by a wide margin, the highest number of COVID-19 cases in the Unites States. The country itself now contains the third highest number of cases in the world.

In Italy, which has the highest number of COVID-19 deaths of any country globally, dispatches from the ground still report people out on the streets and on beaches in seaside resort towns.

Tens of thousands of Italians have been charged for violating the lockdown.

-With files from Lisa Steacy and Charmaine de Silva