The province is looking to scale back the size of gatherings in three regions of Ontario amid a surge in new COVID-19 cases and Premier Doug Ford says there will be “severe fines” for those who don’t follow the rules.
Speaking to reporters at Queen’s Park on Wednesday, Ford confirmed that his cabinet will be meeting today to discuss reducing the number of people who can gather in Toronto, Peel Region, and Ottawa, three areas of the province seeing a steep increase in new infections.
“We’ll have a good wholesome discussion,” Ford said of today’s cabinet meeting. “We are going to act quickly on this.”
Ontario recorded 315 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, the highest daily count of infections reported since early June. Of the new cases recorded today, 77 were in Toronto, 54 were in Peel Region, and 61 were in Ottawa.
“There is going to be some severe, severe fines for people who want to ignore the regulations and the guidelines,” Ford said.
“They are going to be the highest in the country and they are going to be under provincial jurisdiction. It’s not going to be under federal jurisdiction so we will make sure they are followed through.”
As it currently stands under Stage 3 of the provincial government’s reopening plan, 100 people are permitted to gather outdoors and 50 are allowed to gather inside.
The size of gatherings currently permitted by the province has caused some growing concern among local politicians and public health officials due to an increase in the number of cases linked to large private parties and events, including weddings.
Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health Dr. Eileen de Villa said Wednesday that public health officials are investigating four weddings in the city that led to 22 infections.
Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown has repeatedly expressed concerns over the size of allowable gatherings in the province.
He told CP24 Wednesday that he had a “productive meeting” with Ford at the premier’s home earlier this week where they discussed the possibility of reducing the size of gatherings on a region-by-region basis.
“I offered my support for the province to restrict those social gatherings… I don’t believe we need 50 indoors in a residence and 100 people in a backyard. I think those numbers, although consistent with what’s allowed under Stage 3, probably are larger than we need,” Brown told CP24 on Wednesday morning.
“I get complaints about people having an 89-person backyard party. Well that’s consistent right now with what they are allowed.”
Ontario’s top doctors said earlier this week that they are concerned that people are not maintaining proper distancing at gatherings, possibly confusing non-distanced social circles with larger social gatherings, where distancing is still required. They said the latest uptick in cases does not appear to be associated with any particular sort of business or establishment.
During Wednesday’s news conference, Ford defended his own decision to attend the wedding of MPP Stan Cho earlier this month.
“That wedding I went to… all the protocols were followed,” he said when asked about the event. “Every single person in that room had a mask. They had their temperature taken.”
The exact number of people that will be allowed to gather in the three regions has not been released but Ford said the decision will be made in consultation with local mayors and medical officers of health.
Government sources told CTV News that the new limits may not apply to businesses, which have voiced concerns about how more restrictions may impact the viability of their operations.
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