Saskatchewan RCMP officers laid 13 COVID-19 related charges between March 1 and April 16, according to numbers released on Friday.
Officers in Saskatchewan dealt with 229 complaints involving social gatherings of more than 10 people, along with 395 complaints of people failing to self-isolate when allegedly required to do so. There were also 270 other COVID-19 related complaints that did not involve large gatherings or social isolation.
RCMP spokesperson Jessica Cantos said they’re officers are in “uncharted waters” thanks to the new laws and regulations implemented over the last month. With that in mind, officers are responding to these calls by trying to educate the public first, and turning to arrests, charges and fines second.
“For something (like) a large gathering of over 10 people, it might have just been a home owner who didn’t know the law, or refused to follow the law, or didn’t understand the full impact of the potential consequences they could face for hosting a gathering like that. When our officers attend, our first response isn’t to make an arrest and lay a charge or issue a ticket. It’s a new law that we’re working with, so it’s educating them on what it means, the potential consequences, and reinforcing why it’s important to follow these procedures and health orders.”
Cantos said the vast majority of COVID-19 related calls have been resolved through education. She also said the number of calls has started to fall as residents understand what regulations are in place and why.
Saskatchewan RCMP received 10 COVID-19 related calls from March 1-19. That number jumped to more than 500 calls between March 20 and March 31. It has since dropped to more than 300 total calls from April 1-16.
“The numbers are still changing, but … from March 30 to April 16, there has been a slight decrease,” Cantos explained.
There is no hotspot when it comes to COVID-19 calls for service. Cantos said the numbers are evenly distributed across the province.
The Saskatchewan Health Authority created a 24-hour line in March. That line allows residents to make general inquiries, or report public health violations related to COVID-19.
The Prince Albert Police Service received 47 COVID-19 related calls for service between March 1 and April 13. The majority of those calls were related to social distancing or non-compliance with travel restrictions. PA Police have not issued any fines or made any arrests related to COVID-19.