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April 2020 – COVID- 19 : Legal Matters: Health Orders and Restrictions

We are officially nearing the end of the third month of the pandemic crisis. The Calgary Stampede has been canceled for the first time in its 97-year history. Most outdoor summer venues have been postponed or outright canceled.

The restrictions that are currently in place are there to safeguard our health and mitigate the spread of COVID-19. Dr. Deena Hinshaw, BSc, MD, MPH, CCFP, FRCP, has been admirably leading the charge in issuing health Orders to ensure the public’s safety.

Isolation Requirements

In terms of self-isolation, as of March 25, 2020, Albertans are legally required under the public health order to isolate for:

• 14 days if they recently returned from international travel or are a close contact of someone with COVID-19; or
• 10 days if they have a COVID-19 symptom (cough, fever, shortness of breath, runny nose, or sore throat) that is not related to a pre-existing illness or health condition

Gathering Requirements

Further, gathering restrictions have been put in place, stipulating that no gatherings are to be held outdoors or indoors, that consist of more than 15 people (thus foreshadowing in advance the closure of Stampede).

Business Restrictions

During this period, places of business have been impacted as well. As of March 27, 2020, non-essential places of business are no longer permitted to offer or provide services to the public at a location that is accessible to the public. These include businesses providing non-essential services, personal services, businesses providing wellness services and retail premises. Non-essential services include any service that is generally done to protect, protect or maintain health and where an interruption in the provision of service won’t immediately endanger individual’s health or safety. Personal services include any business whose primary purpose is to preserve, enhance or alter an individual’s appearance. Here’s hoping that most of us received haircuts before the crisis started, otherwise, currently the upkeep may be a little bit challenging.

There are some exceptions, however. Places such as coffee shops, food courts and other food serving facilities, may continue to offer or provide take-out, drive thru and delivery services only.

Enforcement

The Public Health Act, RSA 2000, c P-37 (the “Act”), under section 29(2.1) provides the authority to issue health Orders in order to combat the current pandemic. These Orders have been coming out on a more frequent basis as the need to implement further restrictions and mitigate the virus is required. The scope of each Order is governed by section 62, while punishment for contravention is dictated by section 73.

Section 73 has recently been amended by Bill 10 which came into force on April 2, 2020. Instead of being liable for not more than $100 per day that a contravention of an active Order continues, individuals will now be liable for not less than $100 and not more than $5,000 for each day that the contravention continues. That is a material change in the potential daily impact to individuals for their failure to comply.

This is the only the start though. Further, violations of the Act, applicable regulations, or the Orders prescribed for which there is no penalty prescribed, have been amended from $2,000 to $100,000 for a first-time offence and from $5,000 to $500,000 for any subsequent offence. Yes, you are reading that correct. While these fines would be enforceable in Court, the Calgary police has clarified that they could range from $1,000 to $500,000, depending on the circumstances and the nature of the offence.

What we are currently going through is unprecedented. The objective is to initially educate and deter the public, in order to normalize the spread, and eventually eliminate the virus. Help prevent the spread. Alberta strong.

Steve Dimic

If you have any additional inquiries regarding any of the topics or if you have ideas for future topics, please feel free to email me at stevedimik@hotmail.com

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