As the Director of Healthy and Safe Communities, Paul Johnson, indicated on the Bill Kelly Show yesterday, the fight against COVID scofflaws has moved from education to enforcement. Enforcement means expensive fines. From a trickle of charges laid under the Reopening Ontario Ace and Hamilton’s own Face Coverings bylaw, earlier this month, Hamilton bylaw enforcement officials have gotten much busier in the last couple of days. Yesterday a total of six charges were laid against Franco’s No Frills on Queenston Road, Nations Fresh Foods in Jackson Square and a Big Bee on Barton Street. Nations was hit with two charges of failure to ensure physical distancing, and one of not ensuring proper screening of customers. Franco’s No Frills was hit with one count of each. The Big Bee was nailed for having an employee not wearing a mask. Saturday B&T Foods found itself in a pile of trouble for not complying with an order issued five days earlier for not enforcing physical distancing. Bylaw officers issued four tickets which carry a fine of $500 per offence.
So far Hamilton Bylaw officers have laid 28 charges related to social gatherings which carry an $880 fine. They have issued 143 physical distancing citations ($500 per), 20 face covering tickets ($200-$500 each). They have also charged 11 people with obstructing a bylaw officer. In total almost 400 tickets have been issued related to ignoring COVID related regulations.
Johnson, the city’s emergency operations director, warned businesses to “get on top of this” and make health and safety a priority. “It’s about safety of your employees, and it’s about safety of the community, and it should be something that’s talked about regularly.”