On the day Premier Stephen McNeil said it was time to get tougher on anyone ignoring public health rules during the COVID-19 outbreak, Halifax Regional Police issued their first ticket under the Nova Scotia Emergency Management Act.
The ticket was issued Sunday to a 44-year-old woman who was walking in Point Pleasant Park in Halifax. The park is off-limits under current regulations.
Police located a car in the park shortly after 1 p.m. A police service dog and handler located the owner of the vehicle inside the park.
The vehicle was seized and the woman was issued a fine of $697.50.
McNeil said in a briefing Sunday that police across Nova Scotia would be ticketing and towing the vehicles of anyone ignoring public health rules, thanks to "reckless" citizens continuing to put everyone in danger.
He said those continuing to drive to public parks and trails left him no other choice but to take things further with police.
"I'm hearing stories of grocery stores packed with people, groups out playing sports — you are the reckless few," McNeil said alongside Dr. Robert Strang, the province's chief medical officer of health.
"And not only am I upset, and Dr. Strang is upset, your fellow Nova Scotians are upset with you. We've had it."
The province has asked everyone to remain in their own neighbourhoods to encourage physical distancing during the state of emergency.
All provincial parks and beaches are closed to the public, well as municipal beaches, parks and many trails.
Police respond to people at park
People are not allowed to gather in groups of more than five. However, McNeil said he's seen photos of parking lots full of cars, and some have ignored yellow police tape blocking off beaches and parks.
On Saturday, Halifax Regional Police confirmed they responded to Grahams Grove Park in Dartmouth just before noon about a report of people accessing the area.
Officers spoke to those found in the park and directed them to leave, but only gave a verbal warning. Police put up tape up at the entrance of the park.
McNeil urged everyone to consider the example they're setting for young kids.
Parents are working hard to explain to their children why they can't run across the street to play with their friends, he said, so anyone walking around like everything's normal just adds confusion and creates potential harm for them.
Man charged after failing to self-isolate
It's not just people gathering in parks who face penalties.
A 65-year-old Truro man has been charged under the Health Protection Act for failing to self-isolate.
McNeil declared a state of emergency last week that allowed police to fine individuals up to $1,000 for each violation under that act, including failure to self-isolate upon returning to Nova Scotia from anywhere outside the province.
"On March 27, Truro Police Service received multiple complaints within the community with respect to a gentleman who had just entered the province of Nova Scotia from out west," said Sgt. Robert John Hunka.
"Throughout our investigation we were able to confirm that this male had not been abiding by the new protocol put in place of the 14 days of isolation with this COVID-19 pandemic."
The man was fined $1,000.
'We want to come out of this'
McNeil thanked the majority of Nova Scotians for doing their best to stay home and flatten the curve of the virus.
But, he added, they had to take things "up a notch" due to the rule-breakers.
"We want to come out of this. We are tired of being cooped up. But this is not going to end anytime soon if you, the reckless few, continue to break the rules," McNeil said.
The premier asked Justice Minister Mark Furey to direct law enforcement to "escalate" efforts from education to enforcement.
"I had hoped it wouldn't come to this, that everyone would listen," McNeil said. "But the reckless few, shame on you. If you can't do your part, law enforcement will do it for you."
The province has 122 positive cases of COVID-19 as of Sunday, with 4,731 negative test results.
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