VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — The province plans get tougher on British Columbians who still aren’t willing to follow COVID-19 health orders, the premier says.
Speaking shortly before B.C. delivered its first COVID-19 vaccine, Premier John Horgan said work is being done to ramp up enforcement in the coming weeks.
“There are those who are not prepared to bend a little bit in their personal lives to the benefit of all of us collectively,” he said. “We’re going to ask you to be working with law enforcement to ensure that our public health orders are in place, and being acted upon. That means holding rule breakers accountable.”
“There are those who are not willing to bend” even a bit, @jjhorgan says so will be beefing up enforcement over the next weeks. Holding rule breakers accountable. Bylaw officers & others will be working with law enforcement to ensure this.#bcpoli @NEWS1130 #covid19
— LizaYuzda (@LizaYuzda) December 15, 2020
He stressed there will be consequences for those who try to get around the health orders and find loopholes.
“If you do not pay the fines, we will send collections after you. This is serious. This is not a lark. This is not something we do lightly,” Horgan said.
This comes after the virus claimed 49 lives over the weekend and thousands of more infections were reported.
While there is optimism around vaccines arriving in the province, he urged everyone to keep up with mask-wearing, physical distancing, and emphasized the importance of keeping bubbles small over the holidays.
“I want you to have a great holiday season, but I also want you to be safe,” Horgan said. “I want you to recognize and understand that your actions could not just save your family members but it could save other people’s family members as well. It’s not too much to ask.”
Public Safety Minister also referenced increased enforcement last week for people who repeatedly break health orders.
Horgan didn’t provide exact details as to what the tougher penalties will look like. Currently, defying mask orders can run an individual a fine of $230 while having parties have run people fines of $2,300.
Defiant faith leaders won't say if they will cancel in-person services now that stronger #COVID19 safety enforcement is coming.
— Marcella Bernardo (@Bernardo1130) December 15, 2020
Meanwhile, at least one church in Kelowna and a few in the Fraser Valley have kept hosting in-person services, despite pandemic-related bans in effect until Jan. 8. In Chilliwack, charges have already been recommended, but they haven’t been approved.
Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth says only a handful of congregations are breaking rules.
“I respect the role of faith in their lives. Faith helps them get through this pandemic, but faith alone is not going to prevent them from getting the virus. Following the orders of the provincial officer will.”
The BC Prosecution Service confirms those three files are still under assessment.
-with files from Marcella Bernardo