Halifax police say more fines coming as COVID-19 enforcement ramps up
City has had more than 4,600 COVID-related calls over 8 months
Halifax Regional Police are warning people who flout pandemic restrictions they can expect to see more fines given out as the province looks to halt the spread of COVID-19 with tougher measures.
Dr. Robert Strang, Nova Scotia's chief medical officer of health, said earlier this week police will be stepping up enforcement of COVID-19 regulations, especially illegal gatherings.
That means everyone who walks through the door of a party exceeding the maximum number of guests as outlined by the province will be handed a $1,000 fine — not just the host.
Const. John MacLeod, a spokesperson with the Halifax Regional Police, said the force is making sure that message is heard loud and clear.
"We know that people are not following the rules. And it's important for us now to start looking at this and to make sure that people can expect to see more fines and increased enforcement," MacLeod said in a recent interview.
"It's a very serious time right now, and with this spike in COVID, it's important that, you know, we do what we can to curb the spread."
114 active cases in N.S.
Nova Scotia reported 14 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, bringing the number of total active cases in the province to 114. Most of those cases are in the Halifax Regional Municipality.
The gathering limit for most of Nova Scotia without social distancing is capped at 10 people.
In the Halifax area and parts of Hants County, households can have no more than five visitors at any time, plus however many people reside in the home. The gathering limit in public for those areas is no more than five people, or up to the number of members of immediate family in a household. Those limits are in place until at least Dec. 9.
The new enforcement direction comes after police broke up a Halifax house party with about 60 people in attendance on Nov. 2. A single $1,000 ticket was issued under the Health Protection Act.
More than 500 calls to police this month
MacLeod said police have gotten 4,640 calls on Public Health restrictions, including physical distancing, failing to isolate, illegal gatherings and mask-wearing, between March and this week.
The majority of those calls to Halifax police were made in April, when 929 were logged. In October, there were 690 calls. As of midweek, 563 calls had been made in November.
Although the volume of calls has gone up and down depending on how strict the restrictions are, MacLeod said police are prepared to handle any spike in complaints and will deploy resources as needed to ensure the safety of the public.
Some people have told CBC News they called police to report infractions and were directed to Public Health instead.
MacLeod said enforcement is collaborative and other agencies have been tapped to handle specific aspects of public health measures.
"It really depends on the specific circumstances as to what resources are required," he said.
Quarantine Act violations
In rural areas of the municipality, RCMP investigate calls regarding COVID-19 regulations and officers determine what actions to follow, said Sgt. Andrew Joyce.
"The new direction has not changed our procedures at this time," he said.
Between March and Nov. 22, Halifax RCMP received 1,506 COVID-19-related calls, including 768 in regard to the Quarantine Act. The federal act states that travellers entering Canada must isolate for 14 days.
In RCMP jurisdictions outside Halifax, Joyce said about 2,400 calls were received between March and October.
Rural police prepared for possible cases
Outside the Halifax area, police forces in rural parts of the province have all been asked to take the new enforcement direction seriously.
Chief Scott Feener of the Bridgewater Police Service said they mostly see complaints about people not self-isolating or physically distancing, but rarely big gatherings.
"Basically since summer … public response has been exceptional," Feener said.
The force has only had about 140 calls come in since March regarding COVID-19 issues.
But if COVID cases spread into rural areas like Bridgewater, Feener said police are prepared to make some internal changes around scheduling and other tactics to ensure there are enough officers to respond to calls and reduce possible exposures.