Ontario premier warns gathering limits are about to be slashed in other regions
TORONTO -- Ontario Premier Doug Ford said he will cut gathering sizes in other parts of the province after another spike in COVID-19 cases.
"They're coming," Ford told reporters on Friday while speaking about new restrictions. He said he has received multiple requests from mayors and chief medical officers in different health regions for tighter gathering limits.
He did not specify which regions are next to have their gathering sizes slashed.
"We're going to be rolling out other areas across the province," Ford said. "From the request of mayors – I never make a decision without the mayors and chief medical officers – I listen to the medical experts, I always have and always will."
On Friday, Ontario rolled back social gathering limits in Toronto, Peel Region and Ottawa to 10 people indoors and 25 outdoors. Premier Doug Ford made the announcement about gathering sizes in those regions on Thursday afternoon at Queen's Park, saying that the new rules apply to "unmonitored social gatherings and organized public events" held on private property or in parks.
Ford clarified that the restrictions do not apply to events or gatherings held in "staffed businesses" or facilities such as movie theatres, banquet halls, gyms or convention centres.
Those facilities can still have 50 people indoors as long as people maintain proper physical distance from anyone outside their 10-person social circle.
The new rules also do not apply to places of worship or wedding ceremonies, although large receptions held in private residences, backyards or parks will fall under the gathering limits.
Ford stressed that most large facilities and restaurants are implementing strict protocols to ensure a safe environment.
In addition to the new gathering restrictions, the premier said that his government will be proposing hefty fines of up to $10,000 for anyone who organizes a private gathering that exceeds the limits. This is in addition to the current $750 fine for those caught violating COVID-19 rules.
The mayor of Markham issued a statement on Thursday saying he was "disappointed and concerned" that York Region wasn't included in the new restrictions considering its proximity to Toronto.
"We want to avoid becoming another COVID-19 hotspot," Frank Scarpitti said.
"I have long called for a consistent and regional approach, especially in large urban areas. Strict protocols have to remain in place to ensure the safety and protection of everyone. Not only does this leave our community more vulnerable, but could also invite illegal gatherings in our backyard through short-term rental accommodations."
York Region reported 40 new COVID-19 cases on Friday.
The Middlesex-London Health Unit (MLHU) has also asked the Ford government to tighten restrictions in that area, citing a spike in cases over recent days.
The MLHU has reported 47 new cases of COVID-19 in the past week, 30 of those since Wednesday. Three outbreaks have been declared this week in London.