Today, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced 738 new cases of the coronavirus (COVID-19) in B.C., and emphasized that people can be fined for not wearing face masks in indoor public spaces.
Tuesday, Mike Farnworth, Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General, aligned the Province’s measures under the Emergency Program Act (EPA) with the provincial health officer’s (PHO) guidance that masks must be worn in indoor public places.
Individuals found not wearing a mask or refuse to comply with enforcement officers in a retail shop or indoor public space -- including not leaving the space or responding with aggressive behaviour -- may be fined up to $230.
In today's briefing, B.C.'s top doctor noted that the public safety order focuses on those "locations where it's not always possible to maintain that safe distance and where wearing a mask is important for your protection and the protection of the people in that environment."
However, Henry underscored that not everyone can wear a mask, and that "we need to have patience and compassion for people."
The mask order applies to all British Columbians, 12 years and older, in many indoor public settings. That said, children between the ages of two and 12 are encouraged to don facial coverings, but it is not mandatory.
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For people who are belligerent about being asked to don face-coverings and don't wear them to make a personal point, Henry stated that police action is needed.
"This order is designed to help support both people who work in retail shops to keep them safe or those places where people are [not wearing masks to prove a point]--to enable police to take action is needed for people to know there are consequences from taking unsafe actions like that," she explained.
With this in mind, Henry noted that she is concerned for people who have legitimate reasons why they cannot wear masks: "I am particularly concerned about people with disabilities that may not always be readily apparent. And I know that they feel very vulnerable."
Regardless, Henry underscored that she has "no time for people who are belligerent" and try to downplay the severity of the pandemic, or deny that COVID-19 exists.
"This is a truly challenging pandemic and I have no time for people who believe that wearing a mask somehow makes them ill or is a sign of lack of freedom," she said.
"To me, it's about respect for our fellow people who are suffering through this with us.
"And I also want to make sure that we are protecting the ability of people who truly cannot wear a mask to get the services they need. So, I'm calling on all of us to be mindful, to be compassionate, and to make sure that we're treating each other with respect."
"It's the law"
Health Minister Adrian Dix said he'd spoken to several people who work at Burnaby General Hospital, and underscored the high level of stress healthcare workers are facing during the pandemic.
Dix added that he talked to many families who have loved ones in long-term care, and each of them struggled with being unable to visit due to an outbreak or as a result of the visitation rules.
"This is a pandemic that's affecting the entire world and it's affecting all of us a great deal," he said. "So when people try and compare, what really is at best convenience with injustice, I think they're just wrong.
"Right now, wear a mask, because in public places as a sign of respect for one another.
"It's the law, it's the rule, it's also a sign of respect."
Violating B.C. mask order can result in a $230 fine
The mask order applies to all British Columbians, 12 years and older, in many indoor public settings including:
- malls, shopping centres, coffee shops, and retail and grocery stores
- liquor and drug stores
- airports, city halls, libraries, community and recreation centres
- restaurants, pubs and bars
- places of public worship
- on public transportation, in a taxi or ride-sharing vehicle
- common areas of office buildings, courthouses, hospitals and hotels
- common areas of sport and fitness centres when not engaged in physical activity
- common areas of post-secondary institutions and non-profit organizations
Masks can be removed temporarily when individuals are in a place designated for consuming food or beverages, receiving personal or health service, or required to identify themselves in an indoor public space.
Read more here.
--With files from the Richmond News.