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Alberta Health Services fields 4,000 complaints about COVID-19 infractions

Alberta Health Services has fielded nearly 4,000 complaints about alleged infractions against public health orders intended to curb the spread of COVID-19. Some businesses defying orders have been forced to close.

People and businesses are defying pandemic health rules

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney speaks to reporters about the impact the coronavirus outbreak is having on the province in this file photo. (Scott Neufeld/CBC)

Alberta Health Services has fielded nearly 4,000 complaints about alleged infractions against public health orders intended to curb the spread of COVID-19 — and a handful of businesses defying orders have been forced to close.

As of Monday afternoon, AHS had received 3,930 COVID-19-related "complaints or services requests," AHS spokesperson Kerry Williamson said in a statement. 

The first complaint was made on Jan. 27, Williamson said, but the majority were submitted in the past few weeks. 

A wide range of non-essential businesses — from clothing stores to hair salons — have been forced to close during the pandemic.

Most of the complaints have related to facilities that should be closed or are failing to follow the rules around social distancing and self-isolation, Williamson said in an email to CBC News.

7 orders issued — 6 of them to gyms

AHS has ordered seven facilities to close, Williamson said. "Six of seven orders were given to health gyms."

One of the gyms is in Edmonton and five others are in Calgary, he added. 

Around 440 of the complaints were reports about possible self-isolation infractions, Williamson said.

"We investigate complaints and offer advice and guidance where possible. AHS does enforce CMOH [chief medical officer of health] orders where necessary.

"However, if someone is refusing to isolate, we work with our partners in law enforcement to follow up." 

Nearly 1,900 of the complaints were submitted online, Williamson said. The others were phoned in.

The province has been encouraging Albertans to report any businesses or individuals defying new laws instituted during the pandemic and given front-line officers new powers to enforce them. 

Police and community peace officers have been given authority to levy steep fines for breaking isolation orders.

Heavy fines possible

People who don't self-isolate as directed or who join gatherings of more than 15 people can expect heavy fines — $1,000 for a first offence and up to $100,000 for more serious violations.  

Subsequent violations could fetch an establishment, such as a bar or nightclub, a fine of up to $500,000. 

The government has also made it mandatory for travellers returning from outside of Canada to self-isolate for 14 days.

Premier Jason Kenney announced the stringent new enforcement powers last week shortly after Alberta invoked a public health emergency, giving it more authority to enforce public health safety rules.

Speaking to reporters Wednesday, Kenney said while most Albertans are doing their part by self-isolating and not gathering in large crowds, "not everyone seems to get it.

"Too many people are ignoring our public health guidelines and in so doing they endanger the health of others, particularly the most vulnerable."

Eight Albertans have died from COVID-19, including five whose deaths were reported Monday.

The province has 690 confirmed cases. Up to 65 Alberta cases are believed to have involved community transmission. 

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