Southern Health turning into a hotspot for public health order fines

·3 min read

New numbers released by the province this week show the vast majority of tickets handed out recently for violations of current health orders have been issued in Manitoba’s Southern Health region.

According to the provincial statistics, for the week of Dec. 13-19 there were a total of 23 tickets issued in Manitoba for violations of current health orders related to COVID-19.

However, 19 of those tickets were issued in the Southern Health region, which includes a number of southeastern Manitoba communities including Winkler, Morden and Steinbach.

There have also been serious concerns raised recently about the efforts of some businesses in Southern Health communities to enforce the rules, as recently pictures were published on social media and in the Winnipeg Sun that showed several shoppers in the Winkler Walmart not wearing masks or face coverings, and what looked like little enforcement of current mask mandates.

And while the Southern Health region has seen the most health order violations recently, it also continues to be the region with the lowest vaccination uptake in the province.

In Manitoba, approximately 85% of all eligible residents are currently vaccinated compared to 63% of eligible Southern Health residents.

In the city of Winkler, where health order enforcement has been questioned, and where residents held several public anti-health order and vaccine mandate rallies earlier this year, only 43% of eligible residents are currently vaccinated.

In the neighbouring city of Morden, the vaccination uptake sits at approximately 69%, and Morden Mayor Brandon Burley, who has been publicly pushing for months for residents to get vaccinated and follow public health orders, said in a recent social media post that changes need to be made to how the province fines businesses where shoppers aren’t following the rules.

He said the changes are needed because the fines being levied to big box stores likely don’t put much of a dent in their bottom lines.

“Unequal enforcement is why multi-national companies continue to have scads of unmasked patrons,” Burley said in a Dec. 20 Twitter post. “$5,000 to WalMart isn't a second of profits. Implement fines that are proportional to the fire occupancy of stores, and see what happens.”

It appears the province has also been struggling to collect health order fines, as the province has handed out $3,357,347 in fines since April of 2020, but only $349,578 of that money has actually been collected.

Along with the 19 health order violations handed out last week in the Southern Health region, there were also two fines issued in the Winnipeg health region, and another two issued in the Prairie Mountain Health Region.

In total $7,852 in COVID-related health order fines were handed out in Manitoba last week.

The province is also asking that anyone that witnesses health orders being violated in Manitoba report those violations to their tip line at 204-945-3744 or 1-866-626-4862.

— Dave Baxter is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the Winnipeg Sun. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.

Dave Baxter, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Winnipeg Sun

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