At a Sept. 17 press conference, Ontario Premier Doug Ford announced that starting Sept. 18, social gathering limits will be lowered in Peel (Brampton, Caledon and Mississauga), Toronto and Ottawa–the three regions that have seen substantial spikes in new COVID-19 infections over the past few days.
Ford said that gathering limits in Peel, Ottawa and Toronto will be lowered to 10 people indoors and 25 people outdoors.
Gatherings of 50 people indoors and 100 people outdoors will continue to be permitted in all other parts of the province.
The new gathering limits only apply to private social gatherings such as parties, private get-togethers in both indoor and outdoor spaces (such as public parks) and backyard BBQs.
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The new limits do not apply to businesses such as restaurants, bars, movie theatres, gyms or shopping centres, all of which are currently required to comply with capacity limits and face-covering rules set by the province and/or local public health officials.
The new limits will also not apply to events or gatherings held in convention centres or banquet halls, or to people attending recreational sporting or performing art events.
Existing rules, including public health and workplace safety measures, for these businesses and facilities continue to be in effect.
Ford promised stiff penalties for anyone who hosts or attends an illegal gathering, adding that a party host could be fined $10,000. He also said guests could face fines up to $750.
The new rules also allow police officers, special constables or First Nations constables or break up any gatherings that violate prescribed gathering limits.
Ford said the new compliance mechanisms are the most stringent in all of Canada.
“We will throw the book at you if you break the rules. We can’t afford to let a few rule-breakers erase all our progress,” Ford said, adding that while most people are complying with pandemic-related orders, some people are “a few fries short of a happy meal.”
When asked why the province won’t be lowering capacity limits in schools, businesses or banquet halls, Ford and Health Minister Christine Elliott said businesses and schools already have policies in place to enforce physical distancing.
Ford said the province made the decision to lower social gathering limits and increase penalties for non-compliance in consultation with the Chief Medical Officer of Health, local medical officers of health and local municipal leaders after a persistent uptick in cases in Brampton, Ottawa and Toronto.
Ontario reported 293 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday and three new deaths related to the coronavirus.
Elliott said Toronto reported 85 new cases, with 63 in Peel Region and 39 in Ottawa.
She said 70 per cent of the new cases are in people under the age of 40.
The total number of cases in Ontario now stands at 45,676, which includes 2,825 deaths and 40,424 cases classified as resolved.
With files from The Canadian Press