Have you noticed some bad behaviour during the COVID-19 pandemic?
Perhaps your neighbours hosted a large, raucous house party, or maybe you know someone who was actively promoting a gathering of over 50 people. Either way, the City of Vancouver asks you to report these instances through its online system.
Launched in August, the online system allows people to report violations of B.C.'s public health orders during the COVID-19 pandemic. Police and other provincial enforcement officers have been given the ability to issue $2,000 violation tickets for owners or organizers contravening the provincial health officer’s (PHO) order on gatherings and events.
However, people may also call the authorities when they see someone or a group violating a public health order--but they should ensure they aren't tying up emergency services when they do.
Howard Chow, Deputy Chief Constable, Operations, Vancouver Police, told reporters in a news conference today that people shouldn't call 9-1-1 to report COVID-19 violations. Instead, they should be calling 3-1-1.
And if calling 3-1-1 fails?
Chow says people may call the VPD's non-emergency line, but only if they are unable to get help through 3-1-1.
"If you're unable to get through then you go through the non-emergency line. And this is to help prevent any frustration from people that are having to sit and wait in line with the dispatchers. I know that sometimes you have to wait a few minutes for somebody to take the call from you," he added.
Whether or not a police officer will come to a location depends on the circumstances. If it's something that the bylaw officers can tackle, then they will deal with it. Other times, it will be pushed over to police deal with, explains Chow.
"The reality is, is that when we're dealing with 730 plus calls a day, many of them serious calls with stabbing and robberies and assaults--that it is triage very much like a hospital emergency room," notes Chow. "So the most serious calls are going to be dealt with first--and not to minimize the importance of dealing with COVID-19 issues--is that it's going to really come down to resourcing and what we've got going on at that given time."
You may access the City of Vancouver's online reporting system, here.
New Public Health Order
Basically, indoor locations "where people are increasing their heart rate," Henry said. "We have seen repeatedly, not just here, but around the world, that these are venues that we see rapid spread of this virus, even with people who don't recognize that they are ill."
The new provincial health orders restrict social gatherings of any size with anyone outside of your immediate household, as well as indoor group physical activities, including yoga, spin, group fitness and dance classes.
That ban also applies to indoor competitions and games where physical distancing cannot be maintained, including sports such as minor hockey. However, Henry said, "these activities can be replaced with the individual exercise of practice and drills," as B.C. similarly permitted before the province's restart of its sports programs, so long as it "allows everyone to maintain safe physical distancing."
Public health officials are also recommending "in the very strongest terms" that British Columbians avoid travel into and out of the two health regions. "We need to go back to what we were doing in March and April and May, where it was essential travel only," Henry said.
That includes a ban on travelling into or outside of the two health regions for sports, for the time being.
Restaurants are permitted to remain open for the time being, on the condition that each establishment adheres to COVID-19 safety plans. If that isn't possible, Henry suggested that they revert to take-out only service.
Party buses and limousines are also ordered to cease operations for the two-week period.
--With files from Megan Lalonde.