No plans for enforcement blitz of COVID orders on homes

·2 min read

There are new government orders limiting events at private homes in B.C., but don’t expect a sweep of inspections through local neighbourhoods.

The order made Oct. 26 limits house visitors to six due to COVID-19, enforceable by police and bylaw officers, and with fines up to $2,000. Fort St. John RCMP detachment commander Insp. Tony Hanson says it’s business as usual in the North Peace.

“What I imagine is that we would be contacted by the health authority in the event they had some information, and we would be obliged to act on their direction, to determine if it was a violation,” Hanson said. “We’re not going full Quebec here.”

It’s a similar case in Dawson Creek.

“Throughout the whole pandemic, I don’t think the Dawson Creek RCMP have taken any calls related to provincial health orders,” said Staff Sgt. Damon Werrell. “Generally within Dawson Creek and the surrounding communities are complying with health orders.”

In Quebec, police there issued 90 tickets during a September sweep of bars and restaurants, set up road checkpoints to limit travel, and patrolled schools in "red zones."

Closer to home in Prince George, police there fined a 51-year-old man on Halloween after an “out of control” house party with 50 youth ended in a fight. Several were injured and treated for alcohol poisoning, and the man was fined $2,300 for violating health orders.

As of Thursday, there were 29 active cases of COVID-19 in northern B.C. There have been 10 cases in northeast B.C. in the last week, according to data from the BC Centre for Disease Control.

Dr. Bonnie Henry, the province’s health officer, announced the new order after a reported surge in case numbers ahead of Halloween. Much of the province's case spike has been in the Lower Mainland, and linked to social gatherings, including weddings and funerals.

"It is not slowing down," Henry said.

A record high 425 new cases were reported across B.C. on Thursday, only six of them in the north.

Henry said the order on homes is needed to get through the respiratory season, and said she hoped enforcement wouldn't be needed. The province's immediate focus is in the Fraser Health region, she said.

"For a small number of people who may choose to disregard the order, enforcement will be stepped up, and we will be looking at how we make sure that people do take this seriously," Henry said. "The orders are enforcebale by bylaw officers, police officers, and environmental health officers."

Northern Health spokesperson Eryn Collins said the orders remain enforceable and people can complain about large gatherings.

“The orders are enforceable by a variety of authorities, and yes people can complain if there is a large gathering about which they have concerns,” said Collins.

Email reporter Tom Summer at tsummer@ahnfsj.ca.

Tom Summer, Local Journalism Initiative, Alaska Highway News