WINNIPEG — The Manitoba government and City of Winnipeg have introduced enforcement measures for those who don’t comply with COVID-19 (coronavirus) social distancing guidelines.
Operation Safe Apart will begin Saturday and include pre-set fines for individuals or business owners who disregard public health orders, such as not respecting social distancing.
Provincial fine amounts for breaching emergency orders will be set at $486 for individuals and $2,542 for businesses.
Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman says the city will have its own fines of up to $1,000 or up to six months in jail regarding city-owned property such as municipal parks.
The city will launch a Community Service Ambassador (CSA) program on Saturday, where re-assigned city workers wearing blue vests will educate the public whenever they see a gathering.
“This is an opportunity to speak with residents who might not be getting the message regarding usage of our public spaces and the recommendations on physical distancing,” said Bowman.
Manitoba Justice is partnering with the City of Winnipeg on the enforcement units, with Winnipeg police assisting. These units will be dedicated to enforcing orders along with providing awareness and prevention, responding to complaints and supporting bylaw enforcement officers.
Ambassadors will be deployed across the city with a focus on parks, open spaces, and places where people tend to gather.
Premier Brian Pallister called the new enforcement measures “sad,” but noted something had to be done.
“Unfortunately, there is still a need to have additional measures in place to address situations where people are ignoring the advice of our health experts. These changes will give enforcement officers more tools to help curb the spread of the virus.”
An order issued under the Public Health Act on March 20 aims to help reduce the spread of the virus by:
- Restricting public gatherings to 10 or fewer people,
- Requiring the closure of non-essential businesses, and
- Enforcing social distancing measures by businesses and services that remain open including ensuring a two-metre distance is kept between people in the facility or premises.
How to report non-compliance
In Winnipeg, reports of non-compliance can be made by calling 311, emailing email@example.com, or on Twitter: @cityofwinnipeg.
Outside of Winnipeg, reports of non-compliance can be made to the Manitoba Government Inquiry (MGI) line at (204) 945-3744 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Local police services, First Nation police services and the RCMP will act as enforcing bodies for municipalities outside of Winnipeg.
City bans access to certain public spaces
A new order was issued by the City of Winnipeg on Thursday, prohibiting access to the following areas within city-owned parks:
- Skateboard sites
- Play structures
- Picnic shelters
- Outdoor barbeques
- Athletic and sports fields, pitches, diamonds, greens, courts or similar areas.
Social distancing requirements while within city-owned parks including maintaining two metres (six feet) of space from other people, and not congregating within a group of 10 or more people.
The social distancing requirements do not apply to people who can demonstrate that they are living together as members of the same household.
Provincial parks closing some facilities
In an effort to maintain as much public access as safely possible, provincial parks will remain open. However, public facilities including washrooms, playgrounds, picnic and group-shelter use will be closed for the foreseeable future.
“At this time, we believe the general use of parks and trails is a low risk activity for Manitobans,” said Dr. Brent Roussin, chief provincial public health officer.
“With the closure of washrooms and other dedicated gathering space within our provincial parks, the opportunity to congregate in groups of more than 10 people is significantly minimized.”