The Ford government is implementing stricter rules for social gatherings in COVID-19 hotspots throughout the province. This includes reducing the size of public gatherings down to 10 people inside and 25 outdoors following a surge in new COVID-19 cases.
Premier Doug Ford made the announcement Thursday afternoon and said the restrictions will only be implemented in three regions, including Toronto, Peel, and Ottawa.
Ford says the restrictions will apply to functions, parties, dinners, gatherings, BBQs, or wedding receptions held in private residences, backyards, parks, and other recreational areas. The new restrictions will not apply to “staffed businesses,” which includes restaurants, movie theatres, banquet halls, and gyms as these facilities are mandated to follow very specific public health and safety guidelines to minimize risk and limit any spread of COVID-19.
The new measures include a $10,000 minimum fine for “organizers of illegal social gatherings,” as well as the current $750 fine for those who attend those gatherings that do not respect emergency rules.
“We will throw the book at you if you break the rules, and we cannot afford to have a few rule-breakers reverse all of the progress Ontario has made over the past six months,” Ford said during a press conference.
The new rules take effect in Ottawa, Toronto and Peel Region on Friday at 12:01 am.
“We have been working hand-in-hand with our medical officials and our mayors to try and slow down and limit new cases in the regions with the highest rates of transmission,” said Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health.
“This targeted action is in direct response to the latest data, which tells us that increased cases are the result of private and social gatherings. By limiting the number of people permitted at a social gathering in these regions, we will reduce the spread of COVID-19 and keep people safe.”
To support better compliance with public health guidelines, both within these three regions and across Ontario, amendments to the Reopening Ontario (A Flexible Response to COVID-19) Act would, if passed, create:
- A new offence regarding hosting or organizing a gathering in residential premises or other prescribed premises that exceeds limits under an order.
- A minimum fine of $10,000 for organizers of these gatherings.
- Authority for the Lieutenant Governor in Council to prescribe additional types of premises for the purpose of the new offence.
- Authority for a police officer, special constable or First Nations constable to order the temporary closure of a premise where there are reasonable grounds to believe that any gathering exceeding the number of people allowed is taking place and require individuals to leave the premises.
This announcement comes as Ontario recorded 315 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, the highest daily count of infections reported since early June. In Toronto, 85 new cases were confirmed on Thursday, along with 63 in Peel Region, and 39 in Ottawa.