Ontario has expanded new gathering restrictions to the entire province in response to a recent surge in COVID-19 cases.
Gatherings are now capped at 10 people inside (down from 50) and 25 outside (down from 100). Organizers of gatherings in violation of the rules could face a minimum fine of $10,000 following amendments to the Reopening Ontario Act and those who attend could also be fined $750.
The new limits do not apply to staffed businesses or facilities, only private and unmonitored gatherings.
The expansion of the rules took effect Saturday morning and came following advice from the province’s public health team and chief medical officer Dr. David Williams, Premier Doug Ford announced during a rare weekend press conference.
“Over the past several days, we have seen alarming growth in the number of COVID cases in Ontario,” Ford said.
“The alarm bells are ringing. And too much of it has been tied to people who aren’t following the rules. People who think it’s OK to hold parties, to carry on as if things are back to normal. They aren’t.”
Ontario reported 407 new coronavirus cases on Saturday, marking the second day in a row that figure has been above 400. A record number of tests — nearly 39,000 — were completed.
The new gathering restrictions were first announced for Toronto, Ottawa, and Peel Region earlier this week — regions Ford previously called “hot spots” for the spread of the novel coronavirus. It marked the first time the province imposed new restrictions since reopening began.
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On Friday, Ford said the rules would be expanded to other areas of the province after requests from mayors.
“I think the recommendation to go provincewide was really precautionary,” Dr. Barbara Yaffe, Ontario’s associate chief medical officer of health, said during Saturday’s press conference.
“The increases are happening particularly in certain dense urban areas, but there have been indications of small increases elsewhere and we are trying to avert further increase as much as possible.”
Yaffe said health officials are more frequently tracing new coronavirus cases back to social gatherings.
She noted that the gathering rules do not mean physical distancing precautions should be waved when seeing family or friends, even within the limits.
When asked whether the province is at the beginning of a second wave, Yaffe said that public health officials have created three models for a possible coronavirus resurgence in the fall: a big second wave, a series of smaller waves, and a “slow burn with no particular waves.”