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B.C. clamps down on COVID-19 enforcement with fines for party hosts, guests

VANCOUVER — Property owners and organizers can be fined $2,000 for hosting events found in violation of public health orders in British Columbia under stronger enforcement measures announced Friday.
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VANCOUVER — Property owners and organizers can be fined $2,000 for hosting events found in violation of public health orders in British Columbia under stronger enforcement measures announced Friday.

The fines can be levied for hosting a gathering in excess of 50 people, failing to keep the contact information of everyone who attends an event, or inviting more than five guests into a vacation rental property, Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth told a news conference.

A party with fewer than 50 people is not necessarily legal, he added, since all other public health measures must still be followed.

"Police have their discretion, but if you have 38 people crammed into a kitchen and, you know, there's no social distancing (taking) place, then clearly that's in violation of the order and the owner would be subject to a $2,000 ticket," he said.

Farnworth said "problematic" guests may also face $200 tickets for behaviour that could include refusing to leave when directed or disregarding COVID-19 safety plans at restaurants and other businesses.

B.C. reported 90 new positive tests for COVID-19 on Friday, pushing the number of active cases to 824, including 13 people who are hospitalized.

And for the second day in a row, two more people in the Fraser Health region died after contracting the novel coronavirus, bringing the death toll in B.C. to 202.

In a statement, officials said public health workers are monitoring 2,594 people as a result of exposure to known cases of COVID-19, up by 20 from the day before.

There have been 4,915 cases of COVID-19 reported in B.C. so far.

The province is enlisting liquor, cannabis and gaming inspectors, as well as conservation officers and WorkSafeBC investigators, to help issue the violation tickets for the duration of the pandemic.

It's also working with local governments to revoke business and liquor licences where violations occur, said Farnworth.

"The province is building a comprehensive and integrated compliance and enforcement regime to put a halt to bad actors in all corners of B.C.," he said.

B.C. is taking stronger action because the behaviour of a small minority of "selfish individuals" is putting vulnerable people at risk across the province, Farnworth said.

"We can't let the bad decisions made by a few erode the progress that we have made together."

Deputy provincial health officer Dr. Reka Gustafson said Thursday the majority of the latest cases of COVID-19 are still being detected in younger adults.

Vancouver Coastal Health has launched a campaign in response to that trend, which includes tips for visiting restaurants, spending time with friends, playing recreational sports, heading to the beach, going on road trips and practising safe sex during the pandemic.

In a release on Friday, the health authority's chief medical health officer, Dr. Patricia Daly, said the reopening of restaurants and bars, where many young adults work, has contributed to the rise.

But, she said, partying is another factor.

"We're seeing transmission take place in nightclubs in particular, but also at bars and restaurants, while boating and in other indoor social settings," Daly said in a statement.

"It's the way people act and interact in these settings that's problematic: sharing food and drinks, speaking loudly and in close proximity if there's background noise, and not social distancing among strangers, especially if they've been drinking alcohol."

At a COVID-19 briefing in Ottawa on Friday, Health Minister Patty Hajdu said the federal government is also planning to step up messaging aimed at young people next week.

She said Ottawa is working to reach young people through non-traditional media and the best way to measure success will be looking at whether infection rates go down.

BC Ferries and TransLink, Metro Vancouver's transportation network, are also taking further action to stop the spread of COVID-19. Starting Monday, non-medical masks or face coverings will be mandatory for passengers on both transit services.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 21, 2020.

Brenna Owen, The Canadian Press



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