Over $180K in fines issued in Manitoba for not following COVID-19 public health orders last week

Fines totalling more than $180,000 were issued to people accused of breaking Manitoba’s COVID-19 rules in the last week, the province said Tuesday.

Of the 100 tickets issued, nearly half were for not following various public health orders. In total, 20 per cent of the tickets were related to gatherings larger than five people, Premier Brian Pallister said.

“It’s critical right now that we don’t gather with people outside of our households, and we need the full participation of all Manitobans in order for these strict public health measures work,” he said at a news conference.

In addition, 22 fines worth $5,000 each were issued to businesses, for various offences, and 23 worth $298 each were issued to people for not wearing a mask in indoor public places. 

The remaining seven were band bylaw tickets issued by Manitoba First Nations Police Service.

In all, a total of $181,574 in fines was issued from Nov. 23 to 29, up from $126,082 a week earlier.

The tickets include one for $1,296 related to a large drive-in service at Winnipeg’s Springs Church held last weekend contrary to public health orders. 

Enforcement officers are still investigating that incident and are expecting to hand out more tickets. 

The Church of God in Sarto, Man., near the city of Steinbach, was fined $5,000, and six people were given individual tickets of $1,296, after the church tried to hold a large drive-in service on Sunday. They were blocked by RCMP officers, which led to more than 100 cars lining the highway trying to get into the church’s parking lot.

Premier Brian Pallister said 30 tickets have also been issued to people who took part in a large demonstration in Steinbach on Nov. 14. 

Officers are investigating and are expecting to hand out additional tickets, Pallister said Tuesday at a news conference about COVID-19 enforcement. 

“There will be consequences for those who disregard public health orders,” he said. 

“It’s incredibly disappointing that anyone would blatantly disregard public health orders in place to protect Manitobans.”

Pallister says if repeat offenders don’t get the message, the province could find other ways to get people to stay home, including tougher fines. 

“The fact is, if you take $1,000 out of somebody’s pocket, then that better be a deterrent. And if it isn’t, $5000 will be,” he said.

“And if it’s a store and it does it again, you can close them. So the fact of the matter is we’ve got more serious steps we could take if we need to. I just obviously hope and pray we don’t have to take those next steps.”

WATCH | Pallister’s message to COVID-19 rule breakers:

Premier Brian Pallister says 100 tickets for people breaking code red rules in Manitoba were handed out last week alone and more could be coming. 1:06

Asked about municipalities that aren’t enforcing COVID-19 restrictions, Pallister said that if they won’t do it, the province will. 

“We’ll be enforcing in municipalities just as we did this past weekend, whether they have municipal officials there or not,” he said.

“So I would emphasize to people who think that they can get away with something in one RM because there’s nobody from the RM enforcing, that there are other people who are certainly willing to do that and are.”

The update comes after Manitoba hit a record high for COVID-19 hospitalizations on Monday with 342 people in hospital, 43 of them in intensive care units.

On Tuesday, Manitoba reported a record 16 deaths in one day, as the province added 283 new cases to its total.

RCMP vehicles blocked people from accessing the Church of God parking lot south of Steinbach, Man., on Sunday morning. (Erin Brohman/CBC)

Last week, Pallister said the province had issued close to 100 tickets from Nov. 16 to 22, totalling $126,082. It was a significant increase from the week before, when Pallister announced the province was hiring a private security firm to help crack down on COVID-19 rule breakers.

Meanwhile, RCMP said it issued 21 fines between Nov. 21 and Nov. 27.

Of those, eight were issued for hosting a gathering, five were for failing to self-isolate, four were for having guests from outside of a household, three were for failing to wear a mask and one was for attending a large gathering, according to a news release issued Tuesday.

Officers also gave 49 verbal warnings during this time, RCMP say.

Since April, Manitoba RCMP have issued 188 warnings and 99 fines.

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