Anyone deciding not to practice social distancing in Nova Scotia may find themselves distanced from their cash.
The Cape Breton Regional Police Service and Nova Scotia RCMP have stepped up enforcement under the Health Protection Act, laying $1,000 fines for people not social distancing.
CBRPS spokesperson Desiree Magnus said on March 27, a 58-year-old New Waterford woman was fined $1,000 after refusing to leave the lobby of a financial institution where the maximum number of allowed patrons were already present. The woman repeatedly entered the building and attempted to force her way into the lineup.
On Sunday, a 17-year-old and a 19-year-old resident of Glace Bay parked at John Bernard Croak Park and were each fined $1,000 for failure to obey the act by social distancing. Magnus said the pair had traveled there in the vehicle together but were not part of the same household.
Since the Nova Scotia State of Emergency order was put into effect March 22, regional police have received 110 calls related to the provincial COVID-19 orders in place.
Here are trails open to the public in the Cape Breton Regional Municipality as long as people follow guidelines under the Health Protection Act:
- Carmen Young Walking Track
- Pitt Street Walking Track
Sydney River area:
- Brookshaven (Dutch Brook) Walking Track
- Westmount Family Park Walking Track
- Cantley Village Walking Track
- Coxheath Recreation Park Walking Track
- Floral Heights Walking Track
- Atlantic Street Track
- Wentworth Park Walking Paths
- Neville Park (Whitney Pier) Walking Track
- Louisa Gardens Waling Track
- Vince Muise Ball Field Walking Track
- Patnic Avenue Track
New Waterford area:
- Colliery Lands Park Walking Paths
- MacKinnon Walking Track
- Sharon Anne (River Ryan) Walking Track
Glace Bay area:
- Renwick Brook Park Walking Trails
- John Bernard Croak Dam Walking Track
- Black Diamond (Hub / No.2) Walking Track
- Holy Cross Walking Track
- Port Morien Walking Track
The calls included questions and clarification as well as complaints about individuals not adhering to self-isolation, social distancing and gathering limits. Officers followed up on all complaints and issued summary offence tickets when required.
In the meantime, regional police officers are equipped with the necessary personal protective equipment to properly keep them and the community safe.
Acting Chief Robert Walsh said they continue to police the community and will do so throughout the duration of this situation.
“Our members are responding to this situation first hand, both on the front line and in support roles, and I’m very proud of how they have stepped up to continue serving our community.”
Walsh said they've implemented precautionary measures to protect the wellbeing of the community and limit spread, but all emergency services are fully functional and plans are in place to address any impacts to their staffing levels to ensure continued police service.
“Please help us help keep you safe by following the directions of health officials and stay home as much as possible.”
Police strongly advise the public to educate themselves on the directives and new enforcement measures in the order issued by the Chief Medical Officer Dr. Robert Strang on the website www.novascotia.ca/coronavirus in which law enforcement has been directed to enforce, to help address and limit the pandemic spread of COVID-19.
Citizens with police-related COVID-19 calls – to report someone not following the provincial orders – should call 902-563-5151. People are also reminded only to call 911 in an emergency.
Regional police dispatch operators have received more than 100 additional COVID-19 related calls that do not require police attention. Police are asking the public with general inquiries regarding COVID-19 to contact the Cape Breton Regional Municipality information line at 902-563-2276 or e-mail email@example.com.
On Sunday, Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil, fed up with reports of people socializing and not practising social distancing, asked police province-wide to escalate enforcement of the Nova Scotia Health Protection Act. On Thursday, Strang announced 20 new cases of COVID-19, bringing a total of 193 cases in the province. During a news conference Wednesday, Strang said community spread has started and the next couple of weeks will be critical, urging Nova Scotians to follow precautions and stay home.
The Nova Scotia RCMP are also escalating enforcement of offences in conjunction with the COVID-19 crisis. Cpl Jennifer Clarke said on March 31 RCMP officers issued $1,000 fines to four people under the Health Protection Act.
RCMP earlier stated fines were $697.50 but clarified Thursday.
Two people were charged for failing to self-quarantine or self-isolate after returning from out of the country. Two others were charged for failing to maintain a social distance of two metres or six feet. One ticket was issued in Pictou County and three in the Halifax Regional Municipality.
On March 28, Millbrook RCMP fined a business $7,500 for failing to comply with the Health Protection Act, being deemed non-essential but open and operating anyway.
So far since the province has been declared a state of emergency, the RCMP has received 484 calls related to COVID-19 province-wide.
The RCMP also recently reported disturbing encounters of people in areas of the mainland claiming to have COVID-19, threatening to cough on their officers.
"A threat to transmit the COVID-19 virus is a threat to the well-being and health of our members, which is a criminal offence," Clarke said in a news release on the incidents.
All directions of the Chief Medical Officer are enforceable under the Health Protection Act. They include the following orders on gatherings and social distancing:
- There are to be no gatherings of more than 5 people.
- Organizations and businesses are required to practice social distancing of two meters (6 feet).
- Persons arriving in NS or who are symptomatic with COVID-19 symptoms must self-isolate for 14 days. The full order can be found on the provincial government website, https://novascotia.ca/coronavirus/
Health Protection Act: Summary Offence Tickets
- Diseases and Health Hazards fines of $1,000 for a person failing to comply with the act or regulations and $7,500 for a business.
Emergency Management Act Summary Offence Tickets
- Failing to comply with the Act/any regulations $582.50
- Failing to comply with direction, order or requirement made under the Act $697.50
The RCMP is asking people to help protect their communities by reporting crime and suspicious behaviour to police, and by adhering to the steps outlined by government to reduce the spread of COVID-19.
Clarke said the RCMP remains committed to providing policing services to Nova Scotians and wants to remind everyone that we all have a role to play in contributing to public safety during the current state of emergency.
“We all need to do our part to slow the spread of the virus,” Clarke added.
CBRM Mayor Cecil Clarke said people are reporting non-compliance of the act when seeing it.
“Calls have come in when there has been non-compliance in a store,” he said. “That’s why police are working with major grocers as well as retailers like Walmart.”
Clarke said they are asking people who see non-compliance not to engage with the others but instead to report it to the store manager who, if they have a concern, have links with police services.
“We all want compliance and if necessary it will be done, no one is fooling around with this,” he said. “This is no joke, we’re into something very serious.”
However, Clarke said he’s also hearing stories of people really stepping up to obey the Health Protection Act, where people are going down an aisle in a grocery store, encountering someone going the wrong direction on the arrows marked out for safe distancing, apologizing and quickly turning around.
Clarke said there are also issues where people might have to work in tandem, for example, a senior needing help while out for essentials. He has seen someone going into a store for supplies and someone sitting in the car waiting to assist when they come out adding, ‘that’s responsible.'
“We have to work through matters of common courtesy, common sense versus people just breaking the rules saying," he said. “It doesn’t matter, we’re not worried about it.’
Stores having dedicated hours for seniors and the vulnerable has been helpful, he added.
Clarke said the Health Protection Act is being taken very seriously and will be dealt with.
“Everyone is taking this extremely seriously because we’re not coming out of this anytime soon,” he said. “We have to adjust. There is not a new norm, we have to keep adjusting.”
Although all provincial parks and beaches are closed, trails are open for exercise. The CBRM reminds the public to use common sense and follow the Health Protection Act, be mindful where they are parking and maintain social distancing.