Nfld. & Labrador

Skirting the rules this weekend? Here's what it could cost you

Hefty fines and even jail time could make this Easter weekend memorable for people who choose things like house parties over self-isolation.

Government's message is to simply stay home

The Royal Newfoundland Constabulary's COVID-19 unit will be active over the holiday weekend, to guard against people who violate the public health emergency. (CBC)

Hefty fines and even jail time could make this Easter weekend memorable for people who choose things like house parties over self-isolation. 

The government of Newfoundland and Labrador has been clamping down on the spread of COVID-19, issuing restrictions and warnings on non-essential business and travel since the pandemic arrived here last month. 

Health Minister John Haggie — who has repeatedly warned people to stay home during the long weekend, and avoid church, family get-togethers and socializing with friends — has also pointed out that government will use a stick if the carrot of saving lives does not work. 

"We will be as restrictive as we have to be to secure the health of the population here," Haggie said at one of his daily briefings last week. 

"Physical distancing saves lives." 

The Royal Newfoundland Constabulary, meanwhile, said its COVID-19 enforcement units will remain active over the holiday weekend.

"Failure to comply with these measures put the health and safety of our community at risk and will not be tolerated," the force said in a statement Thursday. 

"Our COVID-19 enforcement unit remains active, following up on information received through the government online reporting tool." 

Individuals can face a fine between $500 to $2,500, a prison sentence of up to six months, or a combination of the two.

Non-essential businesses that open can face fines of $5,000 to $50,000, and owners would be held personally liable and open to individual fines. Fines and penalties will multiply after the first instance.

The RNC noted that its officers "have the ability to issue summary offence tickets under the Public Health Protection and Promotion Act."

On March 18, government implemented its strictest penalties to those who are not in compliance with social distancing measures or being in province-ordered self-isolation.

The provincial government's online reporting system went live in March for anyone to report others who may be acting in contradiction to the orders issued under public health emergency legislation. 

The RNC's COVID-19 unit consists of officers from the general investigation unit, a crime analyst and a supervisor.

In late March, a 53-year-old Corner Brook woman was arrested on two separate occasions, facing charges under Public Health Protection and Promotion Act.

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police's COVID-19 team handles all reports outside of RNC jurisdiction. 

As March was coming to an end RCMP spokesperson Glenda Power told CBC News at the time there were more than 100 reports in the queue needing to be dealt with. Some, however, did not pertain to the province's public health emergency orders.

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from Ariana Kelland