Anyone caught walking within two metres of another person in a Toronto public park or square may be subject to a fine of up to $5,000.
Toronto Mayor John Tory announced the new “physical distancing” bylaw on Thursday afternoon, saying that he regrets the fact he needed to take such legal action.
The rule, Tory said, does not apply to people living within the same household.
"Any two people who don’t live together who fail to keep two metres of distance between them in a park or a public square will be subject to prosecution and will, upon conviction, be liable for a fine of up to $5,000," Tory said at a daily briefing on the city’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
"I've signed this bylaw which is in effect for at least the next 30 days to further drive home the message that people have to keep their distance from each other to avoid spreading COVID-19 further in our city."
The new bylaw comes a day after the city's medical officer of health ordered all individuals who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 and anyone who has had close contact with a patient to stay home for 14 days.
Fines of up to $5,000 could be issued to those who do not comply with the order.
"This is a deadly virus that has already tragically claimed the lives of Toronto residents," Tory said. "Given the surge in cases and deaths that we have seen in places like New York and Italy, we must do everything we can to stop the spread of COVID-19 now to save lives in the weeks and months ahead."
“There have been 897 cases of COVID-19 confirmed in Toronto as of 1 p.m. on Thursday,” Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health Dr. Eileen de Villa said.
The number of cases includes 170 cases labelled as “probable.”
There are 86 patients who have been hospitalized as a result of the virus and, of those, 39 are in the Intensive Care Unit.
Eleven people have died as a result of the virus. Toronto Public Health officials previously said there were 19 deaths related to COVID-19 in the city, but later confirmed some of the deaths were “inappropriately attributed” to the virus.
“What this means is that everyone needs to stay home as much as possible,” de Villa said.
“I recognize that it is not easy to stay home, especially as the warmer weather approaches. However, staying home is exactly what we need to do. We know that this virus spreads from person to person. People moving around in our community coming into close contact with one another within two meters of each other is exactly how COVID-19 spreads.”
Tory said that he regrets the need for a physical distancing bylaw, but that he has noticed people still gathering at parks and playground despite previous warnings.
“This will further the spread of COVID-19 in our city and will contribute to the costing of lives… Not only does this misbehavior on the part of a small number put people's own health at risk, it puts their families at risk and all of our families across the city for that matter,” he said.
“It will also prolong this terrible emergency and the damage it is doing to the lives of residents, to their employment, and to their finances, prolonging this trauma for many more months. Why would we want to do that?”
Tory stressed that he isn’t telling people to stay cooped up indoors or to avoid parks all together.
"We are just asking for people to engage in common sense behaviour,” he said. "The public has been warned many times. Now it is into the realm of enforcement."