The city of Vancouver has signaled it’s losing patience with citizens who continue to ignore rules and advice aimed at minimizing the spread of the coronavirus.
“Vancouver City Council will convene on Monday [March 23] for a Special Council Meeting to vote on an amendment to Vancouver’s emergency powers bylaw that will include enforcement of orders,” a city media release reads.
“As directed by the provincial health officer, all businesses that remain open must ensure appropriate social distancing for staff and patrons. Businesses that do not comply with this requirement will be subject to closure and fines.”
Bars and restaurants were officially ordered to end dine-in services last Friday (March 21). But more than a week earlier, authorities were already strongly encouraging people to limit every sort of social gathering.
Those warnings however did not stop some people from venturing out in groups. Yesterday (March 22), for example, “English Bay” was trending on social media because the beach and adjacent parks there were almost crowded with people ignoring physical-distancing orders.
The same day, the city’s park board closed recreational facilities and shut down parking lots in an effort to discourage people from visiting parks.
Vancouver mayor Kennedy Stewart has been blunt with his frustration over the situation.
"This weekend, I saw reports of people hosting house parties, having group picnics on the beach, playing soccer, playing beer pong," he said during a Sunday (March 22) media briefing. "Beer pong. This isn't a game. People are dying." (Beer pong is a less-than-hygienic drinking game that involves throwing ping-pong balls into the cups of one's competitors.)
"The vast majority of residents and businesses have been outstanding members of our community, abiding by these rules,” reads a related statement that Stewart shared online. “But too many did not.”
There are a total of 424 cases of COVID-19 in B.C., according to the province’s March 21 update on the pandemic. Ten people have died.
Vancouver declared a state of emergency in response to the coronavirus on March 19.
The motion going to council tonight would “make it an offence to fail to comply with an order under that [State of Emergency] By-law, to allow enforcement orders to be issued under that By-law, and to make any offence committed under that By-law punishable by a fine of up to $50,000”.
A short report accompanying the motion suggests the city originally did not want to deploy enforcement measures but now feels it must due to some citizens’ failure to heed authorities' warnings.
“Staff had anticipated that the public would comply with the By-law due to the unprecedented circumstances that resulted in its enactment,” it reads. “In order to ensure that failure to comply with orders issued under the Emergency By-law can result in meaningful penalties, staff is now recommending that clear enforcement provisions be included in the Emergency By-law.”