Ontario’s stay-at-home order won’t be enforced with a heavy hand by Barrie police and city bylaw officers.
Police and city officials both said the order, which kicks in at 12:01 a.m. on Thursday, will be enforced with an even hand.
Peter Leon, communications co-ordinator with Barrie police, said local officers will be enforcing the stay-at-home order fairly.
“It’s not going to be a case that if you’re walking down the street that you’re going to be approached by the police and asked what you’re doing,” he told BarrieToday.
“Obviously, there are provisions built into the (stay-at-home) announcement where people are allowed to leave their home to exercise and if they’re not congregating and hanging out with others, then there’s no issue or concern," Leon added.
Tammy Banting, Barrie’s manager of enforcement services, said city bylaw enforcement officers would use similar measures.
“Subject to further direction from the province, the approach will be focused on education, warnings and efforts to achieve voluntary compliance with fines for people blatantly or repeatedly breaking the rules,” she said. “The approach will be both proactive and reactive.”
Leon said police will deal with situations on an individual basis, and where necessary provide education and enforcement as required. The province has said police and bylaw officers will have the power to enforce the stay-at-home order and issue tickets to rule-breakers.
“The stay-at-home order is that, but the premier and the government has made it very clear that there are certain things that people can leave their homes for — medical appointments, groceries, pharmaceuticals, that type of thing,” he said.
“This is how the government has identified it’s best to deal with this next wave of COVID, and I think we all have an obligation to follow the rules so that we can try to get back to whatever the new normal may be, and we need to try to flatten this because it’s not going to go away if people don’t do what’s asked of them,” Leon added. “That’s quite evident from the numbers we’ve seen.”
Public Health Ontario confirmed Wednesday that there have been 224,984 cases of COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic, reported 190,221 recoveries and 5,127 deaths.
On Wednesday, Ontario Solicitor General Sylvia Jones said pandemic restrictions have been in place for some time.
“To be clear, the police have been enforcing the orders under the Reopening Ontario Act already,” she said. “Since March, we’ve had Ministry of Labour inspectors out in the manufacturers and businesses, ensuring that they are complying. We have had police and bylaw officers asking people to disperse and laying fines when appropriate.
“The Reopening Ontario Act is very clear that if you are not at your place of residence, and you should need to be fined or ticketed, as a result of the orders, they (police, bylaw officers) have an obligation to ask for your name, date of birth and address, to lay that ticket.”
The city has not been notified by the province about any new fines for not obeying the stay-at-home order. Current fines are $875 for individuals who fail to comply with an order and $875 to $100,000 for businesses, depending on the court decision.
The province says one of the key changes included in Tuesday's stay-at-home announcement is that it allows provincial offences officers and other law enforcement to issue tickets to those who breach the order and disperse crowds larger than five people, if they're not part of the same household.
The province hasn't specified how officers will check why people are outside their homes. But it said people will have a duty to identify themselves when a police officer has ‘reasonable and probable grounds’ that there has been a breach of the orders made under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act.
However, Ontario Premier Doug Ford said that unlike a curfew, people will still be allowed to go outside regardless of the time for essential purposes, including if they need to "walk around the block" for exercise.
Ford said Wednesday the message couldn’t be clearer.
“Unless it’s an essential reason — getting food, medicine, visiting the doctor, or exercise, going to work — you must, you must… stay home. It’s the law and it will be enforced,” he said. “If you’re not sure that a trip is absolutely essential, it probably isn’t, so please, you must stay home.
“The only way for these extraordinary measures to succeed, the only way to save our hospitals and long-term care homes is for all of us to do what is right and just stay home. These measures are intended to give us the runway we need to get vaccines to millions of people across our province," the premier added.
“At the end of the day, we need to crush this virus, one way or another.”
The order was announced Tuesday as the province declared a state of emergency – its second of the COVID-19 pandemic – and unveiled a series of new restrictions meant to slow the spread of the virus. The new restrictions were announced after the province released projections showing the virus is on track to overwhelm Ontario's health-care system.
At 12:01 a.m., Thursday, the province’s stay-at-home order requires everyone to remain at home with exceptions for some activities — such as going to the grocery store or pharmacy, accessing health-care services, for exercise or for employment where the work cannot be done remotely.
This order, and other new and existing public health restrictions, aim to limit people's mobility and reduce the number of daily contacts with those outside an immediate household. In addition to limiting outings for these purposes, all businesses must ensure that any employee who can work from home, does work from home.
Other measures came into effect Wednesday. Outdoor organized public gatherings and social gatherings are further restricted to a limit of five people with limited exceptions. Individuals must wear a mask or face covering in the indoor areas of businesses or organizations that are open, and wearing a mask or face covering is now recommended outdoors when you can't physically distance more than two metres.
All non-essential retail stores, including hardware stores, alcohol retailers, and those offering curb-side pickup or delivery, must open no earlier than 7 a.m. and close no later than 8 p.m. These restricted hours don’t apply to stores which normally sell food, pharmacies, gas stations, convenience stores and restaurants offering takeout or delivery. And non-essential construction is further restricted, including low-grade construction, exempting surveying.
— With files from The Canadian Press