After numerous parties and social gatherings have led to outbreaks and rising COVID-19 case numbers in British Columbia, the provincial government announced new enforcement measures on August 21.
For violating provincial health officer (PHO) orders, officers can issue $2,000 tickets to owners, organizers, and operators while individuals who refuse to comply with police directions or responds with abusive behaviour to police or employees of establishments can be fined $200.
After the first weekend that these new measures came into effect, officers issued several tickets while breaking up social events, including a Canucks fan gathering, at various locations in Surrey and a residence in Victoria that hosted parties on two consecutive nights.
Surrey RCMP stated in a news release issued today (August 24) that the Surrey COVID-19 Compliance and Enforcement Team (CCET)—which consists of Surrey RCMP and City of Surrey bylaw officers—conducted 429 checks on August 22 and 23 at businesses, event venues, and faith-based institutions. From those checks, 425 locations were found to be in compliance with health orders.
However, four violation tickets were issued to businesses and event organization for repeated violations of the provincial health officer’s orders.
On August 23, Surrey officers issued $2,300 fines to one restaurant, two event or banquet halls, and one after-hours club.
All of these venues had been previously given warnings.
In addition, on August 21, Surrey RCMP and the Delta Police Department responded to a gathering of Canucks fans, consisting of about 1,000 people who were celebrating the team's win, at the corner of Scott Road and 72nd Avenue in Surrey, without physical distancing or masks. Officers issued seven tickets for seatbelt violations, due to vehicle occupants hanging out of windows or sunroofs.
Surrey RCMP and Delta police will monitor Scott Road at 72nd Avenue after each Canucks playoff game.
Although a Victoria resident was fined on Friday night for holding a party that violated health guidelines, he went on to hold another similar party the next night.
The Victoria Police Department stated that officers attended a one-bedroom suite at a building in the 1000 block of Fort Street in Victoria at 7 p.m. on August 21 to warn a resident about COVID-19 health and safety protocols after finding out that a large party was being planned to be held there that evening.
When officers returned to the location around 10:30 p.m., they found about 15 people at the location and asked the host to end the party as it was causing a disturbance and unsafe during the pandemic.
Although the host said he would comply, officers continued to watch people coming and going from the building. When officers went back to the suite, there were about 30 people inside who weren’t physical distancing. The suite resident also hadn’t documented attendees and contact information for potential contact tracing. An estimated 40 to 60 people, who were mostly youths, had attended the party.
Consequently, the resident received a $2,300 violation ticket, which included a $300 victim surcharge levy and attendees were told to leave.
However, that didn’t deter the resident.
Officers responded to a noise-disturbance complaint about the same suite shortly after midnight on August 23. At the suite, officers found 15 people in the suite.
When police told the host and guests that the party was over, the group complied except for one individual who refused to leave. He was arrested for obstructing an officer and given a $230 violation ticket for abusive or belligerent behaviour at a social gathering, which included a $30 victim surcharge. He was released at the scene, and he later left the location.