Law enforcement agencies in Alberta have been granted full authority to enforce public health orders and issue fines, Premier Jason Kenney said Wednesday.
The government has also made it mandatory for travellers returning from outside of Canada to self-isolate for 14 days.
"If you violate the rules that we have laid down, you will now be subject to stringent penalties and fines, with rigourous enforcement behind them," Kenney said.
"These new enforcement measures are a reasonable, prudent but necessary response to the escalating COVID-19 outbreak in Alberta.
"When life returns to normal, we will no longer require these kinds of extraordinary powers. But right now we must use every tool available to ensure public safety."
Alberta reported 61 new COVID-19 cases Wednesday, bringing the province's total to 419, Kenney told a news conference.
Under the new rules, community peace officers and police will be able to issue tickets to enforce COVID-19 public health orders.
Fines of up to $500,000
Fines for violating an order have increased from up to $100 per day to a prescribed fine of $1,000 per occurrence.
Courts will also have increased powers to administer fines of up to $100,000 for a first offence and up to $500,000 for a subsequent offence for more serious violations. The new fines will be in force over the coming days.
Kenney said he doesn't expect police officers to interrogate Albertans with questions about their recent travels outside Canada.
"But I think the more likely scenario where these powers would be used is if a group of more than 50 people springs up in a park," he said.
"This is not an effort to start interrogating people based on how long they've been in the country, but it does hopefully send a message.
"That's really what we're trying to do here, send a message. This is not a hint, it's not a suggestion, it is an absolute legal requirement that under certain circumstances people must isolate themselves."
Public health orders subject to fines for violation include:
- Anyone who has travelled outside of Canada must go into mandatory self-isolation for 14 days from their return, plus an additional 10 days from the onset of any symptoms should they occur, whichever is longer.
- Anyone who exhibits COVID-19 symptoms must self-isolate for a minimum of 10 days from the start of their symptoms, or until the symptoms resolve, whichever is longer. Symptoms include cough, fever, shortness of breath, runny nose, or a sore throat.
- Anyone who has been identified as a close contact of a person or persons with COVID-19 must go into mandatory self-isolation for 14 days from the date of last having been exposed to COVID-19, plus an additional 10 days from the onset of any symptoms should they occur, whichever is longer.
- Mass gatherings must be limited to no more than 50 attendees.
- Access to public recreational facilities, private entertainment facilities, bars and nightclubs is prohibited.
- Visitation to long-term care and other continuing care facilities is limited to essential visitors only.
Kenney told the news conference there are encouraging signs — such as the number of patients who have fully recovered — that the province is starting to get a handle on the pandemic.
"The evidence strongly points to a dangerous but manageable public health crisis," Kenney said.
"We are managing the early stages of the outbreak in Alberta effectively, much more effectively than in many other jurisdictions around the world."