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Coronavirus: Toronto mayor signs bylaw to enforce physical distancing at city parks, squares

Coronavirus outbreak: Toronto mayor imposes 2 metre distancing bylaw in public parks
WATCH ABOVE: Toronto Mayor John Tory announced on Thursday that he had signed into effect a bylaw requiring people to keep at least two metres between each other in public parks as the city continues to put into place further measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Toronto Mayor John Tory has signed a bylaw that will allow enforcement officers to issue tickets to those who are violating orders related to physical distancing due to coronavirus.

“We must do everything we can to stop the spread of COVID-19 now to save lives in the weeks and months ahead,” Tory told reporters Thursday afternoon.

“There have been plenty of warnings issued … now it is into the realm of enforcement.”

READ MORE: 401 new coronavirus cases in Ontario, total rises to 2,793 cases and 53 deaths

As of Thursday and for 30 days, Tory said two or more residents who don’t live in the same household and are within two metres of each other can be ticketed.

The Ontario government has banned gatherings of more than five people.

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The set fine approved by the court was $1,000. However, if ticketed and subsequently convicted, residents can potentially face fines of up to $5,000.

“The time for puzzlement at this misbehaviour is over. Lives are potentially at stake and we will turn up the heat in the hopes that the few who don’t get it or pretend not to get it will get with the program,” Tory said.

“We will continue to do everything we can as a municipal government to lock the city down in order to save lives.

“To do less would be to ignore the lessons of New York City, where in the past two days almost 200 people have died – bringing the total to 1,374 deaths in just over a couple of weeks. I can not and will not allow Toronto to go down that path.”

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Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders said enforcement has begun. He said approximately 160 sworn officers in addition to bylaw officers, public health inspectors, parking enforcement officers and special constables will be enforcing the City’s bylaw and provincial orders.

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Tory said City staff have received 1,180 complaints about people not following the two-metre rule for physical distancing.

READ MORE: Latest coronavirus developments in the Greater Toronto Area on April 2

He also said enforcement teams are monitoring 42 park hotspots for repeat issues, noting at Sunnyside Park concrete barriers were being installed at the parking lot after people removed fencing.

Tory said City crews may tow vehicles parked in blocked-off areas.

Dr. Eileen de Villa, Toronto’s medical officer of health, said as of Thursday afternoon, there were 727 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 170 probable cases. It was estimated that 26 per cent of the cases were because of community spread. Of those people, she said 39 of the 86 hospitalized Toronto residents were in ICU beds.

As of Thursday morning, the Ontario government said there were 2,793 cases of COVID-19 in the province. In total, 53 Ontario residents have died and 831 cases have been deemed resolved.

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