The City of Surrey has joined many other municipalities in the region in closing down outdoor facilities, including playgrounds, sports courts and skate parks in an effort to keep people from gathering in groups and spreading COVID-19, amid a global pandemic.
The city had announced last week that other civic facilities like recreations centres, pools, arenas, libraries and museums were closed in response to the pandemic.
Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum faced calls to step up the COVID-19 response over the weekend, as confirmed cases continue to increase in Brititsh Columbia.
In a statement emailed to media on Monday, McCallum said the vast majority of the city's citizens "are taking personal responsibility by staying home or when outside, strictly adhering to social distancing measures."
But he said many others are "willfully ignoring the orders and measures issued by the provincial health officer," and continuing to gather in large groups.
"Carrying on with this kind of behaviour is selfish, and you are risking the health and well-being of your family, friends, and everyone in our community," said McCallum of people who have failed to maintain social distance.
City staff clarified that while sports fields and courts are closed to organized or group sports — and leagues have suspended play — they wouldn't be physically closed.
Casual use of Surrey fields, beaches and green space is still permitted, so long as social distancing measures are adhered to.
Call for emergency council meeting
Surrey councillor Jack Hundial was among the people calling for stricter measures before McCallum's announcement.
"We're calling for the mayor to call an emergency city council meeting that is live-streamed and the public can see," said Hundial. "If you're not going to call a special meeting at a time like this, when are you going to call it?"
He said issues like public safety, finances, further COVID-19 response preparations and concerns with our staff in the city all ought to be discussed, either in a virtual council meeting, or at the council chamber where councillor can maintain social distance.
Hundial said there have been teleconference meetings with city staff to get updates in recent days, if councillors want to dial in.
"If you look at most of the Metro mayors, they're standing up and being the leaders that they're elected to be — they're coming out and voicing concerns about social distancing, about businesses that continue to operate," he said. "I'm not seeing that in Surrey."
McCallum said in his written statement that they were in the process of finalizing enforcement measures and penalties for those who continue to defy official orders.
On Monday morning at a virtual council meeting in Vancouver, a set of penalties was approved, including up to $50,000 fines for businesses and $1,000 for individuals who don't follow new rules passed during the city's state of emergency.
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