The City of Delta has set up a call centre to help people connect with services during the COVID-19 pandemic, and also to take reports of people continuing to gather in defiance of public health orders.
During a virtual townhall on Thursday, March 26, Mayor George Harvie and Delta Police Chief Neil Dubord discussed the city’s efforts to enforce Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry’s order that people stay at least two metres/six feet from one another and not gather in groups of 50 or more.
Dubord and Harvie said the city is setting up a call centre to field the high number of calls the city and the DPD are getting about people gathering in numbers and not practicing social distancing. The call centre is now open from 8:30 a.m. to 4:45 p.m., seven days a week, at 604-946-4141.
“I’m very disappointed that there are areas where people are doing that,” Harvie said during the virtual town hall. “Fred Gingell [Park] stairs, it only has room for two people — I run up and down there a lot. We actually fenced it off because of the gatherings and somebody has taken a bolt cutter and opened it up.
“So we have no tolerance, zero tolerance, and I’m pleading on those individuals that are doing that, that are cutting the locks to get into our basketball hoop areas, into our parks that are closed: Wake up. This is extremely, extremely important. And if you see this happening, to the general public, please report it to police. It’s vandalism and they will act on it immediately.”
Dubord encouraged people to call the call centre once its open and to let operators know where people are gathering so Delta police and bylaw enforcement officers can deal with the issue. Dubord discouraged people from using social media to report gatherings to police as the accounts are not monitored 24-7.
Dubord said police will also begin proactively patrolling places where it’s been reported that people have frequently been gathering, beginning Monday morning.
Harvie said the call centre won’t just be for reporting those who aren’t adhering to social distancing, but also to provide assistance for people that need it and help connect them with community service groups.
“It will be there to help everybody,” Harvie said.
Hours before the virtual townhall, the province enacted a number of measures to co-ordinate efforts to fight COVID-19 province-wide, including suspending local states of emergency in favour of the provincial state of emergency and enabling police and municipal bylaw officers to enforce Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry’s orders relating to business closures and limiting gatherings, including issuing fines of up to $25,000 or jailing offenders.
Delta had declared a local state of emergency on March 19 and used the additional powers it granted to issue several orders including mandating local stores set aside time every day for seniors and others who are the most vulnerable to COVID-19 to shop separate from from the general public, and requiring store managers take steps to discourage overbuying of all goods and limit the quantity of “key items” that a single person may purchase in one day.
Harvie said the province’s move strengthens the city’s ability to enforce the measures taken by the province and orders from Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry to address the ongoing pandemic.
“Any time you’re acting under a provincial regulation versus a local government regulation, there is strength in that,” Harvie said.
At a special meeting on Wednesday, March 25, Delta council unanimously gave first, second and third reading to amendments to the city’s Emergency Program Bylaw, which would enable police and bylaw enforcement officers to ticket and fine anyone who isn’t adhering to orders issued by the Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry relating to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Under the amended bylaw, acting contrary to an order, failing to carry out or comply with an order, or interfering with or obstructing any authorized person in carrying out their duties will carry a fine of between $500 and $1,000 per offence.
Council is going ahead with voting on giving the bylaw amendments fourth reading and final adoption at special council meeting on Friday, March 27 at 4 p.m.
“We will be fining,” Harvie said during the virtual townhall. “It’s not an exercise in just trying to paper everybody with a fine; it’s trying to use it for education too. But at the point of education is fining. … So when people are purposely not adhering to the provincial health officer’s requirements, we will be issuing these tickets.”
For more information about the city’s response to COVID-19 and its impact to city programs, services and events — plus precautions to take to lessen the chance of contracting the virus as well as links to the Fraser Health, Health Canada, HealthLink BC and BC Centre for Disease Control websites — visit delta.ca/coronavirus.