COVID-19 public health orders now enforceable, fines between $1,000 and $500,000

Edmonton police, bylaw and peace officers will now have the ability to issue tickets to anyone violating public health orders.

'Enforcement is an option for us. We will issue tickets if required'

Tape and signs block off the closed food court at Edmonton's City Centre East mall. (Axel Tardieu/CBC)

Edmonton police officers could soon hand out fines to people or businesses that violate current public health orders. 

Alberta Health Services said those who breach the orders may be ticketed $1,000 per occurrence. For more serious violations, courts could administer fines of up to $100,000 for a first offence and up to $500,000 for a subsequent offence.

The Edmonton Police Service is currently working through a backlog of complaints from the public, said Insp. Ray Akbar, operations chief for the police pandemic response team.

Police and health officials have previously asked the public not to call 911 to report perceived violations of public health orders. 

"We've seen a reduction of calls for complaints with regards to compliance through the 911 line," Akbar said. "However, we do still see a few of them coming through.

"For the most part the public are being mindful, they're being respectful, and they recognize the risks around COVID-19 and the spread of the virus itself." 

An online system of reporting is being launched in partnership with Alberta Health Services, which will funnel information to public health inspectors so they can investigate complaints. 

"Enforcement is an option for us," Akbar said. "We will issue tickets if required."

He said the updated legislation had just been sent to the office so he did not have any examples of tickets being issued as of Thursday. 

Police are also monitoring locations that could present a risk, especially to vulnerable populations. 

"We want to be sure that we use a lot of discretion," Akbar said. "We want to ensure that the public is adequately educated."

In a release, EPS said it will be watching for gatherings of more than 15 people, indoors or outdoors, physical distancing adherence and facility closures.

Akbar said two EPS members have confirmed cases of COVID-19. One is a sworn officer and the other is not.

Several members are self-isolating, he said, either because they recently travelled or because they were showing symptoms of a cold or flu.