More Ontario COVID-19 education and enforcement blitzes on the way
TORONTO -- The Ontario government will be enlisting more than 200 provincial offences officers in an effort to crack down on businesses in COVID-19 hot spots not following public health measures.
The “education and enforcement blitz” is not a new concept. The ongoing inspections have been targeting areas struggling to curb the spread of the disease, the province said.
Speaking at Queen’s Park on Thursday, Premier Doug Ford said that inspectors visited more than 400 restaurants and bars, as well as 100 gyms and banquet halls, over Thanksgiving weekend.
“Most of those businesses are receptive to the visits because these inspections aren't just about enforcement, we're educating our business owners. We're coaching them on how best to protect their employees, customers, and the general public,” the premier said.
“And the good news is the vast majority of the businesses we visited, they're following the rules, they're taking the situation seriously.”
Officials said that three similar campaigns have already taken place and almost 1,000 workplaces have been visited in total.
No tickets have been issued, the province said.
Ford said that the education and enforcement campaigns will support businesses that are following the rules and crack down on “the bad actors out there.”
“I want to send a message to the rule breakers out there. My friends, we have to tighten things up. We can’t accept anything less. And for any bad actors out there, to anyone who knowingly and deliberatively breaks the rules, we will not hesitate to find you and shut you down.”
The inspectors will support municipal police, bylaw officers and public health officers in educating businesses and enforcing the rules, the province said. They will also be asking employers to produce workplace safety plans, which are supposed to outline how the business expects to operate while following COVID-19 protocols.
Those who are found not to be compliant with the rules will be ticketed a fine of at least $750 under the Reopening Ontario Act.
If convicted of an offence under the Reopening Ontario Act, individuals could be fined up to $100,000 and directors of a corporation could be fined up to $500,000.
New recommendations to come for COVID-19 hot spots tomorrow
The inspection blitzes come as the premier weighs new recommendations made by Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, which are expected to be announced on Friday.
Ford did not specify the scale of the new "tough" measures on Thursday, saying that he has yet to see the recommendations.
Williams, who was alongside the premier for the news conference, said that he has given the recommendations to Health Minister Christine Elliott for review.
The premier announced that new measures were coming later this week on Wednesday amid a rising number of daily-reported COVID-19 cases and deaths.
On Thursday, the province reached the 150 COVID-19 patient threshold where other hospital care and scheduled surgeries would be impacted.