Ontario Premier Doug Ford made his message regarding social gathering clear at Queen’s Park Thursday afternoon.
“We will throw the book at you if you break the rules,” Ford said, admonishing people breaking rules in unmonitored social gatherings.
Currently, in Stage 3 of the provincial reopening, there is a limit of 50 people on social gatherings indoors and 100 outdoors. But provincial ministers announced Thursday that they will begin rolling back social gathering limits in Toronto, Peel Region, and Ottawa to 10 people indoors and 25 people outdoors.
The new restrictions will come into effect on Sept. 18 at 12:01 a.m., and apply to functions, parties, dinners, gatherings, barbecues or wedding receptions (only in private residences) as well as backyards, parks, and other recreational areas.
They will not apply to events or gatherings held in staffed businesses and facilities, including bars, restaurants, cinemas, convention centres or banquet halls, gyms, and recreational sporting or performing art events (existing rules for these businesses/facilities, including for TIFF, will continue to remain in effect).
When Ford was asked why the rules won’t impact wedding celebrations (the source of multiple COVID-19 cases in the province), Ford said that since weddings typically take place in banquet halls, they already have strict guidelines in place, as compared to a “free-for-all” party.
This is a good first step, but should be extended to businesses & schools as well. The idea that “private gatherings” are driving spread is not necessarily backed by data. We don’t know. 54% of cases are unable to be traced. It’s easier to trace social gatherings #detectionbias
— Kevin McIntyre (@KMcIntyre94) September 17, 2020
Under the new amendments to the Reopening Ontario Act, it would be considered an offence to host or organize a gathering in residential premises or other prescribed premises that exceeds the limits under an order. Hosts who break these rules will be charged, at minimum $10,000; individuals who show up to these social gatherings can be fined $750.
Police officers, special constables, or First Nations constables will have the authority 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.
Ford did not confirm if the province spoke with the police about the new regulations, but said that he believes it is a serious crime for people who break these restrictions.
— TorontoGal (@gal_toronto) September 17, 2020
The province made the decision to modify the gathering limits in hotspots due to an increase in COVID-19 cases. As of Sept. 16, the province reported 45,676 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Ontario. Compared to the previous day, this represents an increase of 293 confirmed cases, an increase of three deaths, and an increase of 179 resolved cases.
Provincial officials spoke with city mayors and health officials — there may be more cities to come, depending on how well they fair during Stage 3 of the provincial reopening.
“We’re monitoring the situation and we’ll update it as necessary,” said Dr David Williams, Ontario’s chief medical officer of health.