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Torontonians face up to $5K fine for violating physical distancing by-law

Last Updated Apr 2, 2020 at 10:34 pm EST

Torontonians face a fine of up to $5,000 if they do not adhere to new social distancing measures announced the City on Thursday.

Mayor John Tory says a new by-law will immediately go into effect ordering people to remain two metres apart when they are in public parks and squares.

Tory said the by-law does not apply to people who live together as long as they maintain their distance from others they come into contact with.

The by-law will be in effect for at least the next 30 days.

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

“The public has been warned many times. Now it is into the realm of enforcement.”

Police chief Mark Saunders says up to 160 uniformed officers along with civilian members of the service and parking enforcement officers would be responsible for enforcement. The City says it will be bringing on board additional by-law officers to also help with enforcement.

While the set fine is $750, Mayor Tory said he hopes anyone found violating the by-law will be handed the full $5,000 fine.

“We will continue to do everything we can to lock the city down to save lives,” explained Tory, adding he doesn’t want a New York City-type scenario to happen here in Toronto.

Walking for exercise in the park and taking pets for a walk is permitted provided people abide by social distancing recommendations.

“We are not saying to people, ‘Don’t go to the park,'” said Tory. “We are asking for people to engage in common sense behaviour.”

Dr. Eileen de Villa, Toronto’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, called reports of people taking down barricades at City parks and groups of kids playing in the street while parents socialize “appalling” and “selfish.”

She said while it’s hard to stay at home with the warm weather approaching, if we don’t stay indoors are much as possible, “more people will get sick and more will die.”

“People are getting sick. People are dying in our city. Yet others think it’s okay to hang out with their friends in groups of people. This behaviour is selfish and it contributes to virus spread in our community. And it is not acceptable.”

There are now 897 total cases of COVID-19 in the Toronto, an increase of 10 per cent from the previous day. Of those cases, 86 people are in hospital with 39 of those patients in the ICU.

Dr. de Villa revised the death toll to 11, down from 19. She said that Toronto Public Health are aware of other deaths but those are being further investigated to confirm they are COVID-19 related.