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B.C. announces $230 fine for failing to wear a COVID-19 mask in indoor public space, non-compliance

Masks have been mandatory in indoor public spaces, indoor retail settings since Nov. 19
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B.C. Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry. (via THE CANADIAN PRESS)

The province has announced its enforcement actions should someone fail to wear a mask in an indoor space or not comply with an order announced last week.

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said on Nov. 19 that masks would become mandatory in indoor public spaces as well as indoor retail settings after originally saying masks would not be ordered mandatory in the province. 

Henry said she received feedback from businesses asking for help in enforcing masks to be worn by employees and customers. 

The consequences were not immediately made public as the details were still being worked out.

Mike Farnworth, Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General, announced tonight (Nov. 24) that he is aligning the province's measures under the Emergency Program Act with Dr. Bonnie Henry's guidance that her mask order is placed into effect. 

As a result, those who do not wear a mask in all indoor public and retail settings can be fined $230. 

Anyone that refuses to comply with the direction of an enforcement officer, including being asked to leave the space, or responds with abusive and belligerent behaviour can also be fined. 

"We've entered a second wave of COVID-19 in British Columbia and additional steps need to be taken to protect our health," he said in a statement.

"Now more than ever, we all need to follow the guidelines of the PHO. Last week, the PHO provided guidance that masks should be worn in all indoor public places.

"This new order under the EPA will ensure we have the tools necessary to enforce the mask mandate as recommended by the PHO."

The B.C. government says masks are not recommended for children that are under the age of two, but should be encouraged for children aged two to 12 in public settings. 

Children over 12 must wear a mask in an indoor public space unless they have reason to be exempt. 

Indoor spaces include: 

  • Malls, shopping centres, coffee shops and retail and grocery stores
  • Liquor and drug stores
  • Airports, city halls, libraries and community and recreation centres
  • Restaurants, pubs and bars
  • Places of worship
  • On public transportation, in a taxi or ride-sharing vehicle
  • Common areas of office buildings, court houses, hospitals and hotels 
  • Common areas of sport and fitness centres when not engage in physical activity 
  • Common areas of post-secondary institutions and non-profit organizations 

A mask or face-covering is defined as a medical or non-medical mask that covers the nose and mouth. 

Face shields are not a substitute for a mask, the government says, as there is still an opening below the mouth. 

The release says those that cannot wear a mask, put on or remove a mask without the assistance of others are exempt from the order. 

"A person may not be able to wear a mask for a psychological, behavioural or health condition, or due to a physical, cognitive or mental impairment," the statement adds. 

"Masks may be removed temporarily in indoor public places to identify the individual wearing the mask, to consume food or beverage at a location designated for this purpose while participating in a sport or fitness activity in a sport facility or while receiving a personal or health service that requires the mask to be removed."

If any tickets issued for violations do not prove to be a deterrent or in cases of particularly egregious contraventions or repeat offenders, police will have the ability to recommend charges. 

British Columbia shattered its single-day case count record today (Nov. 24) with 941 new cases in the past 24 hours. 

Northern Health has tallied 29 of those, which brings the recorded number to 678 since the pandemic hit the region in March. Its daily record is 34, which was recorded this past Sunday to Monday.