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Half of COVID-19 fines during pandemic in B.C. handed out in past month

FILE - Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth introuced the COVID-19 Related Measures Act in August 2020. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ben Nelms)

Recent COVID-19 fines numbers show the province is ramping up its enforcement

More than half the fines levied for breaking B.C.'s health orders have been handed out in the last month

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — The province has ramped up enforcement for those who choose to thwart COVID-19 health orders in B.C., with recent numbers showing more than half of the total fines handed out were over the last month.

From Aug. 21, 2020 to Jan. 15, 2021, 693 violation tickets were handed out, with more than 300 since mid-December.

Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth says the worst offenders could end up with more than a fine.

“The police do have the ability in situations, depending on the nature of them, to recommend stiffer charges that can result in significantly increased financial penalties, or, depending on the nature of the offence, can possibly result in jail time,” he tells NEWS 1130.

RELATED: West Vancouver man hit with $2,300 COVID-19 fine after hosting gathering at local business

Most of the tickets, 548, were $230 fines given to people “who refused to comply with direction from law enforcement.”

Twenty-six $2,300 fines were handed out for breaking public health orders on serving food and liquor.

The remaining 119 fines were given to owners or organizers holding gatherings and events, each worth $2,300.

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Farnworth calls recent incidents, like a maskless shopper berating others in a store or the Vancouver couple pretending to cough on people at a gym, reprehensible and repugnant.

“I know that the police have been investigating some of these and tickets have been issued, and it’s quite possible that there may be more serious charges that come from this depending on what they find in their investigation,” he says.

The Vancouver couple was fined a total of $460.

“I just find it unbelievable that people would do that or harass someone for following the rules,” Farnworth adds.

Earlier this month, two people were charged in Dawson Creek following an assault of a Walmart employee over a mask policy.

RELATED: B.C. to beef up COVID-19 enforcement

So far, on the federal level, 85 people in B.C. have been fined a total of $93,00 total for breaking quarantine rules.

However, for the most part, Farnworth says people seem to be following the rules.

“People know that this is a marathon,” he says. “The fact that the vaccines are starting to rol lout, the fact the days are getting longer, I think there’s a sense for people that there is light at the end of the tunnel with this thing, But they know it’s not over yet.”