New penalties created for breaking COVID-19 prevention rules

The provincial government has created special penalties for anyone caught defying emergency health restrictions aimed at dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic in Ontario.

The OPP and other law-enforcement agencies now have three new charges for dealing with individuals, businesses, or other groups who defy the provincial health emergency restrictions in place to reduce the threat of COVID-19 spreading in Ontario.

The Provincial Offences Act (POA) now includes three offences specific to the pandemic situation. Police and other agencies can use these charges to deal with situations which contravene the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act restrictions aimed at containing the spread of COVID-19 in Ontario.

The POA additions include: failure to comply with an order, with a fine of $750; obstructions of person, with a $1000 fine; and one for corporations which contravene health emergency orders, with a fine of $500,000.

The aim is to help police and other agencies enforce closure of specific types of businesses and prevent large gatherings of groups of more than 50 people at a time, along with enforcing any quarantine orders, as part of the provincial pandemic containment plan.

Under the provincial health emergency plan, all restaurants must be closed. Those able to provide take-out or home delivery service may continue operations. All night clubs, arenas and other public indoor recreation facilities, private schools, theatres, cinemas, concert venues, churches, community halls or other facilities which deal with large groups of people must be closed. All parades or other events which would result in large gatherings of people are suspended until the pandemic situation is over.

The Ontario health emergency restrictions are in effect until March 31, after which the provincial government will consider whether an extension is necessary or not.

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