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Norfolk enforcing public health orders

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Norfolk County has beefed up enforcement to ensure public health orders regarding business closures and social distancing are respected.

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The goal is to reduce the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus and eventually halt the chain of transmission.

“An increased number of bylaw officers are now patrolling key areas across the county, for longer periods of time, in order to enforce social distancing measures and non-essential business closures,” Matt Terry, a spokesperson for Norfolk County, said in a news release on April 15.

“Bylaw officers are also actively investigating complaints about the operation of non-essential businesses.”

Priority orders that will elicit fines when violated include:

  • No social gatherings of more than five people.
  • The closure of recreational areas and facilities such as parks, piers, playgrounds, beaches, sports fields and other open spaces usually accessible to the public, whether owned publicly or privately.
  • The closure of trail systems.
  • The prohibition of short-term rentals of hotels, motels, cottages, trailer parks and recreational vehicles except for housing needs related to the public health emergency.
  • The closure of marinas.

Terry says the county’s enforcement complement of a dozen officers and longer hours extending into the weekend is an indication of how seriously the municipality takes the need to respect public health orders.

Social distancing, self-isolation and closure of non-essential businesses and facilities are considered key to slowing the rate of COVID-19 transmission and thereby relieve pressure on front-line health-care facilities and the people who work in them.

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Norfolk has deputized general enforcement staff from the ranks of employees who perform enforcement in specialized areas. Examples includes firefighters and forestry staff.

In an interview, Terry said some of these employees would’ve been part of the county’s general layoff of staff last week were it not for the need for additional boots on the ground. Last week’s layoff totalled 145 workers.

A dozen county staff have been empowered to enforce the health orders, Terry said, which is more than double the county’s usual bylaw enforcement complement.

“We’ll increase that number based on need,” Terry said.

Bylaw officers also actively investigate complaints about the operation of non-essential businesses.

Failure to comply with provincial rules can result in a $750 fine. Fines for contravening public-health orders may be as high as $5,000. In addition, fines are subject to victim surcharge fees.

The health unit has set up a COVID-19 enforcement hot line. Residents witnessing activity or behaviour that violates public health orders and which could accelerate the spread of the virus can do something about it by dialling 519-428-8019.

“Staying home as much as possible is the best way to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the community,” Terry says. “Those who must venture out for essential trips to places like the grocery store or for medical appointments should stay at least two metres from others.”

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