EDMONTON — Alberta Premier Jason Kenney says there's "a special place in hell" for hoarders and scammers during the COVID-19 crisis.
Kenney says officials are continuing to hear about cases of hoarding food and other vital supplies, along with Internet scams stoking fears about the novel coronavirus to obtain credit card information.
"The poorest amongst us are being hurt by people who are unnecessarily hoarding," Kenney told a news conference Monday.
"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. Just stop it.
"It is completely un-Canadian. It is un-Albertan. It is unacceptable."
The premier says people are getting calls from fraudsters claiming to be from Alberta Health Services, telling them they have the virus and using it to leverage their personal and credit card information.
There are also fake websites tied to information on COVID-19 or getting medical supplies that download computer viruses or gather personal data, he adds.
If the Alberta government catches any of these fraudsters or scammers, Kenney says they "will face the full force of the law."
Kenney volunteered earlier Monday at Edmonton's Hope Mission and he says he learned that demand for free meals is soaring, but the shelter is having trouble filling orders due to grocery chain bottlenecks tied to hoarding.
If everyone shops in normal moderation, Kenney says, the food supply chain will work just fine.
Kenney also had tough words for snowbirds returning to Alberta from hotspots in the United States.
When they return, he says, they must go home directly to self-isolate and, if they need supplies, make arrangements to have them delivered by someone else.
"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. It does not mean going and visiting the grandkids," Kenney says.
"You must go directly and immediately to your home without stopping.
"It is an absolute public health imperative — and we are prepared to if necessary use stronger legal tools to impose that obligation on people."
Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta's chief medical officer of health, announced 42 new cases of COVID-19 on Monday, bringing the total in the province to 301.
Hinshaw also updated the case of western Canadian doctors who attended a recent curling bonspiel in Edmonton with someone who later tested positive for the virus.
She said 11 of 47 Alberta health-care workers who attended the three-day bonspiel, many of them physicians, have tested positive and are self-isolating.
The province also updated its self-isolation timelines Monday. The required 14-day period of self-isolation may be cut short if someone does not show any symptoms after 10 days, Hinshaw says.
She adds that new testing rules will also give priority to essential workers, although existing testing appointments will be honoured.
Kenney also announced new economic relief for businesses, including deferring the education portion of property taxes for six months and deferrals on workers' compensation premiums.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published on March 23, 2020
Dean Bennett, The Canadian Press