BREAKING: Ontario rolls back social gathering limits in response to rising COVID-19 cases

 

The provincial government says it’s rolling back social gathering limits across the entire province in response to what Premier Doug Ford says is an alarming growth of COVID-19 cases in Ontario.

“Three weeks ago, we were around 80 cases. A week ago, we were around 200 cases. Now, we’re over 400 cases and climbing,” Ford said in a press conference today. “Folks, the alarm bells are ringing.”

Effective immediately for the next 28 days, the province has set a new limit of 10 people allowed at private indoor gatherings (down from the previous limit of 50) and 25 people at private outdoor gatherings (down from 100).

These restrictions — which were imposed earlier this week on Peel Region, Toronto, and Ottawa — are now in effect for the whole province.

“Clearly, the numbers are heading in the wrong direction,” Ford said. “That’s why we are taking decisive action to lower the size of unmonitored private social gatherings in every region of Ontario. We need everyone to follow the public health rules in order to prevent another provincewide lockdown, and protect all our citizens, especially the elderly and the vulnerable.”

The government says private, unmonitored social gatherings include functions, parties, dinners, gatherings, BBQs, and wedding receptions held in private residences, backyards, parks, and other recreational areas.

The new limits don’t apply to events or gatherings held in staffed businesses and facilities, such as bars, restaurants, cinemas, convention centres, banquet halls, gyms, places of worship, recreational sporting or performing art events. 

The province says indoor and outdoor events and gatherings cannot be merged together, meaning gatherings of 35 (25 outdoors and 10 indoors) are not permitted.

The province is also looking at amendments to the Reopening Ontario (A Flexible Response to COVID-19) Act, which if passed would establish:

  • 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 premises 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

“It is critical that we continue to take the necessary steps to protect the health and safety of all Ontarians,” said Solicitor General Sylvia Jones. “We are making it easier for communities to keep people safe through a broad array of tools and deterrents including stiffer penalties for organizing social gatherings at private residences that violate the applicable size restrictions.”

Today, Ontario is reporting 407 new cases of COVID-19, and one new death associated with the coronavirus.

The figures mark the second time in as many days that the province has recorded more than 400 cases in a 24-hour period.

With files from The Canadian Press

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