B.C. is in a new and complex phase of the COVID-19 pandemic, one in which transmission of the virus is primarily in private settings where public health measures are difficult to enforce. In this phase, health officials’ “soft-hands” approach – prioritizing education over enforcement – appears to have little impact.

COVID-19 enforcement stepped up in B.C. in the last two weeks of 2020, with dozens of tickets handed out to rule breakers.

In a news release also announcing a renewed state of emergency in the province, B.C.'s public safety ministry revealed a total of 574 COVID-19 violation tickets were handed out between Aug. 21 – when the fines were first introduced – and Jan. 1.  

"Police have done excellent work this year enforcing the public health orders designed to protect public safety," Mike Farnworth, B.C.'s public safety minister said in a new release. 

"I want to thank them and the vast majority of people in B.C. who are observing the rules and masking up." 

But that number is up from 387, which was the figure given last month for the period between Aug. 21 and Dec. 18, suggesting another 187 tickets were given in the two weeks over Christmas and New Year's Eve. 

Of the 187 new tickets, 34 were $2,300 fines to business owners or event organizers breaking the health order on gatherings. Another 153 tickets costing $230 each were given to individuals who didn't comply with direction from law enforcement. 

During that two-week period, two more Quarantine Act violation tickets were issued, totalling $2,300. Since the pandemic began, 77 of those tickets have been handed out across the province. 

"I want to be crystal clear that if people break the rules, they will be held accountable," Farnworth said.

Current rules limiting social gatherings to households only, except for those who live alone, remain in place until Friday. Dr. Bonnie Henry has not yet indicated whether those health orders will be renewed. 

On Tuesday, B.C. renewed its state of emergency for the 22nd time, which has already been in place for 42 weeks. The declaration was first made back in March to give officials extra powers to enforce orders associated with COVID-19.