'Special place in hell' for scammers, supply hoarders taking advantage of COVID-19 pandemic: Kenney
EDMONTON -- Alberta's premier spoke in his strongest terms yet Monday against scammers, people who continue to hoard and resell supplies and those who have recently returned to Canada and refuse to self-isolate despite the COVID-19 pandemic.
In a news conference, Jason Kenney once again reiterated "there is no need" for Albertans to buy more than what they need at grocery stores. He also drew attention to reports of scammers posing as Alberta Health Services and other organizations to defraud people during the pandemic. But on Monday, he took his message one step further.
"Let me just say to those who are trying to exploit seniors and others during this time of a public health emergency, there must be a special place in hell for people like that," a furious Kenney said.
"Just stop it. It's completely un-Canadian and un-Albertan and it is unacceptable. It is illegal and if we catch anybody who is engaged in these kinds of frauds or scams, I guarantee you, the book will be thrown at them and they will face the full force of the law."
Supply hoarding has been reported around the world as the spread of COVID-19 has ramped up, prompting some businesses to implement limits on how many face masks, bottles of hand sanitizer and cases of toilet paper can be purchased by an individual.
Edmonton shelter Hope Mission reported the number of free meals its handed out has risen by 80 per cent since the pandemic began, but it hasn't been able to get supplies because grocery stores are stressed by demand, Kenney said.
"This is outrageous…The poorest amongst us are being hurt by people who are unnecessarily hoarding."
SNOWBIRDS MUST SELF-ISOLATE
He also lashed out at reports of Canadians, including tens of thousands of snowbirds in the United States, not immediately self-isolating when they returned home.
"This does not mean going to the grocery store, it does not mean going to the kennel to pick up your dog, it does not mean dropping your RV off at a service company to be serviced," he reiterated. "It does not mean going and visiting the grandkids. It means one thing and one thing only…you must go directly and immediately to your home without stopping."
Anyone returning home who needs supplies or errands to be run, "you've got to call family, friends or neighbours to help you out with that, or delivery services," Kenney said.
The province's emergency committee cabinet will meet Monday night to discuss, among other issues related to the pandemic, the ability to issue quarantine orders at ports of entry.
"I've asked that we take a look at one step further and look at potentially issuing people with quarantine orders so there is no ambiguity whatsoever of their obligation to go directly home and self-isolate for 14 days," Kenney said.
There is currently a $100 fine for defying provincial health orders about self-isolation.
Kenney said the cabinet could increase those penalties.
As for a provincial state of emergency, Kenney said he has not yet seen a need to declare one and that the existing public health emergency is still in place.
"Primarily to allow us to better manage resources in the health system so that we can ensure we have the personnel required when we hit the peak of the pandemic," he said.