VANCOUVER -- Vancouver officers can now fine individuals and businesses that aren't following the city's guidelines surrounding physical distancing.

Council voted in favour Monday of a motion to amend the bylaw enacted last week, which resulted in the declaration of a city-wide state of emergency

The motion makes it an offence not to comply with the state of emergency bylaw, and imposes a fine of up to $50,000.

Individuals can be fined up to $1,000 under certain circumstances – decision up to the discretion of City of Vancouver bylaw officers.

The motion was passed unanimously during a special council meeting meant to outline the city's emergency powers.

Mayor Kennedy Stewart said it was prompted by a lack of physical distancing city staff members are seeing in Vancouver's public spaces. 

The changes will allow the city to crack down on businesses and facilities, as well as individuals.

City officials mentioned specifically that businesses that remain open must ensure physical distancing for staff and patrons.

Fines can be as high as $50,000, the city said.

Individuals not practicing physical distancing in certain areas can be fined as much as $1,000. These fines would be similar to parking tickets, and could be fought in court.

The decision to ticket would be up to the discretion of the bylaw officer.

Physical distancing, previously referred to as social distancing, refers to a guideline from health officials that people should be at least a metre apart, and ideally at least two metres, to reduce the risk of spread of novel coronavirus.

While the fines for individuals were approved, the new guidelines only apply to areas such as parks, beaches, the plaza in front of city hall, school playgrounds and inside establishments.

The tickets cannot be handed out for those standing too close on sidewalks and streets.

Fines to individuals and businesses would be issued by the city's bylaw officers.

However the VPD said officer will respond to situations where a disturbance may occur.

The city has four to six bylaw officers working most days, officials said. On Saturday, those officers visited 600 businesses, and went to 1,000 more on Sunday.

Bylaw officers issued orders under the city's state of emergency to about 15 of those businesses.