Businesses not following social distancing rules could face $50K fines or closure: Vancouver mayor
Mayor Kennedy Stewart frustrated at lack of compliance with social distancing during COVID-19 pandemic
Businesses in Vancouver that don't make people stand at least two meters apart could face closures or fines of up to $50,000.
City council will meet virtually on Monday to pass new bylaws that would allow the city to enforce the "significant" penalties, Mayor Kennedy Stewart said Sunday.
City manager Sadhu Johnston said the fines for businesses could be up to $50,000, depending on the severity of non-compliance. The city says it is still identifying enforcement measures for individuals. Right now, it's focusing on educating people to ensure compliance.
"At this point there is not a fine for individuals that are not complying. That's something we will be looking into," he said.
Stewart also expressed frustration about reports he's heard of house parties, group picnics on the beach, soccer games and beer pong parties on the weekend.
"This isn't a game. People are dying," Stewart said.
"The time of asking nicely is coming to an end.
"Reckless behaviour like playing beer pong in the middle of a pandemic could lead to people dying."
Meanwhile, the Vancouver Park Board has closed all public outdoor recreation facilities within its parks and beaches as well as parking lots because of a lack of public compliance with social distancing rules.
The city is also not yet ordering non-essential workers to stay put, Kennedy said. But he said he will ask council Monday to approve the ability to use this power if necessary.
Kennedy says health officials have told him a complete shutdown of non-essential services is not yet required. But if health officials deem it necessary, Kennedy said he wants to be able to immediately put that order in place.
"Make no mistake, we will act to save lives if we need to, now and in the future," he said.
"The message to everyone is clear: shut down, stay put, save lives."
Kennedy is also calling for urgent action to protect residents in the Downtown Eastside.
He said the provincial and federal governments need to work with the City of Vancouver on the delivery of goods, access to a safe supply of drugs, support for overdose prevention sites, cleaning and hygiene, building security, testing for frontline workers, income assistance and secure housing.
Kennedy said the actions taken over the next few days could mean the difference between life and death for some community members.
"When this is all over, will you be able to look at yourself in the mirror and honestly tell yourself that you did everything you could to help?" he said.
"Right now, for too many people, the answer is no."
Parking lots closed at some city parks, beaches
Areas closed by the Vancouver Park Board this weekend include volleyball, skate parks, field sports, and tennis courts.
Beaches and other areas of the parks remain open, but visitors are encouraged to come during off-peak hours and stay two metres away from others.
Effective immediately, parking is prohibited at high-traffic areas like the seawall, Kitsilano Beach, English Bay, Queen Elizabeth Park, Stanley Park, Jericho Beach, Locarno Beach and VanDusen Botanical Garden.
These measures are in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic and will last indefinitely.
They will be complete by Monday morning, the park board said in an online statement.
<a href="https://twitter.com/ParkBoard?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@ParkBoard</a> staff removing logs from beaches to discourage sitting close to others. Please help us keep beaches safe and open. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Covid19?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Covid19</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/socialdistancing?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#socialdistancing</a> <a href="https://t.co/fhfAxwIqjb">pic.twitter.com/fhfAxwIqjb</a>—@vanparkGM
"We're taking this measure as a result of insufficient public compliance with social distancing protocol at many parks and beaches," the statement said.
The Park Board said in a tweet Sunday that it is currently installing signage to limit access to park facilities.
The iconic logs where generations of beachgoers have rested are also being removed to prevent people from sitting together.
"Please help us keep beaches safe and open," tweeted park board general manager Malcolm Bromley Sunday morning, as the closure of facilities was announced.
On Friday, the City of Vancouver shut down 166 playgrounds operated by the park board.
Earlier on Sunday, Port Coquitlam closed all sports courts, sports fields, and skate parks effective immediately. Public washrooms will also be closed. All public parks and trails in Port Coquitlam remain open.
The City of New Westminster also closed all city playgrounds, basketball and volleyball courts, and skate and all-wheel parks.
The District of North Vancouver closed skateboard and skatebowl parks, the Lynn Canyon Park parking lots and the Mount Fromme parking lot.
Port Moody also closed all public recreational facilities in parks, including basketball courts, tennis courts, skate parks, bike parks and sports fields.
Whistler has also closed all of its playgrounds, skate, tennis and basketball courts.
Rainbow Park, Bailey Park, Alta Lake Park, the Lost Lake beach area and all gathering areas at other parks are also closed.
All playgrounds and parks in Prince Rupert on B.C.'s North Coast are also closed.
If you have a COVID-19-related story we should pursue that affects British Columbians, please email us at email@example.com.
- An earlier version of this story said people could face fines for not abiding by social distancing rules. In fact, the City of Vancouver says fines would be restricted to businesses for now.Mar 22, 2020 6:20 PM PT