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Toronto mayor says complaints about physical distancing violations dropped 'dramatically'
A City of Toronto by-law officer walks on Woodbine Beach with his ticket book making sure people are practicing physical distancing in Toronto on Friday, April 10, 2020. Health officials and the government have asked that people stay inside to help curb the spread of COVID-19. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press)
TORONTO -- Mayor John Tory says that the number of complaints about people flouting physical distancing guidelines have “dropped dramatically,” an indication that increased enforcement may finally be working.
Tory tells CP24 that the city received 186 complaints about people using shuttered amenities or not practicing physical distancing on Saturday, which is down nearly 40 per cent from one day prior when there were 300 complaints.
Tory said that bylaw enforcement officers also had to approach fewer people and educate them about the bylaw on Saturday. That number, he said, was in the “300 range” despite being as high as 1,700 on Friday.
Citations, meanwhile, were up on Saturday as police transitioned to a new “zero tolerance approach.”
Tory said that a total of 48 fines were handed out throughout the day. Police had previously only issued 53 fines over the preceding 10 days.
The fine for not following physical distance guidelines in parks and public squares is $1,000.
“I say that things are getting better based on the reduced number of complaints and the reduced number of people that have had to be spoken to,” Tory said. “I think that is because people have now heard about the enforcement and they are seeing the presence of bylaw and police officers.”
There are currently 200 bylaw enforcement officers and 160 police officers dedicated to enforcing the bylaws around physical distancing.
They were initially focused on educating residents about the need for physical distancing but Police Chief Mark Saunders announced on Saturday that there will be a “zero tolerance approach” going forward.
He said that officers will make “common sense exceptions” but will move “almost exclusively to issuing tickets to people congregating in groups and using closed amenities in city parks” with specific attention paid to 20 hot spots where people have been seen gathering in groups.
Those areas include Christie Pits, Humber Bay East, High Park, Woodbine Beach, Allan Gardens, Bluffer’s Park and Trinity Bellwoods, among others.
“This is all about preventing illness. Even yesterday with all the efforts and all the goodwill that people have exercised - and I think people are getting much better at this - we had 158 new cases and in the last two days we have had 25 deaths,” Tory said on Sunday morning.
“This is a health matter and those bylaws only came into place in response to a request by the Medical Officer of Health. I didn’t dream it up so that I can have fun watching whether people comply or not.”
On Sunday, the city reported 160 confirmed cases of COVID-19, bringing Toronto's total to 2,225 cases. Of those cases, 208 are in hospital with 85 people in intensive care. There are 79 deaths linked to COVID-19 in the city as of Saturday.
So far, 114 people have recovered.