The Grey-Bruce Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) detachment says it will not be arbitrarily stopping individuals but every complaint received will be investigated.
“We are getting quite a few complaints and we engage based on those complaints,” said OPP Sergeant Nigel Heels. “Every complaint or Crime Stoppers tip we get, we investigate.”
Sgt. Heels spoke to Grey Highlands council members at a special meeting of council held April 21 to discuss the municipality’s response to the recent COVID-19 restrictions rolled out by the province last week.
According to Sgt. Heels, the Grey-Bruce OPP detachment has received 31 COVID-related complaints in the past seven days. He said the calls have been a mix of compliance checks, complaints of gatherings and businesses operating in contrary to legislation.
In comparison, the March detachment commander’s report, which covers the period from Jan. 1, 2021 to Feb, 28 shows the detachment had 18 COVID-19 related calls.
“In terms of the gatherings that we go to, COVID-fatigue is probably part of it, or as the vaccines start rolling out people feel like it's an acceptable level of risk,” he said.
“I think that's kind of what we're seeing, in some of the anti-mask, anti-shut down protests or lock down protests that have popped up over the province,” Stg. Heels continued, adding that an anti-lock down protest had been held in Grey-Bruce last week.
“Those are tricky because we don't go in heavy-handed and there's a lot of reasons why we don't. We try the education component first, and we try to negotiate as well with those protest groups,” he said.
Despite an increase in COVID-related calls over the past week, local authorities say the majority of the public in Grey Highlands is complying with public health recommendations and provincial restrictions.
“Ninety-nine per cent of people in Grey Highlands are obeying the rules. People are staying home and doing as they are asked to do. People are using common sense,” said Lynn Silverton, chair of the Grey Highlands Police Services Board.
Dr. Ian Arra, medical officer of health for the Grey Bruce Health Unit, echoed Silverton’s sentiment.
“Usually 50 to 60 per cent compliance or engagement is a good outcome in public health and in Grey-Bruce, throughout the pandemic, it has been over 80 per cent whether it's the mask, or isolation or other,” Arra said.
As the region moves through the third wave of the pandemic, Arra believes the role of enforcement officers will only become more paramount in the coming weeks.
“I do believe the role that enforcement agencies are playing is increasing in importance. Just because COVID fatigue is cumulative and people may get to a point where they might not follow instructions or follow recommendations,” said Arra.
When it comes to individuals who own a second residence in Grey Highlands, Sgt. Heels added that individuals are allowed to travel to their secondary residence to perform maintenance or service checks, or to isolate.
For up-to-date information on COVID-19 rules and regulations and how they are being implemented locally, visit the Grey Highlands COVID-19 webpage.