Premier Doug Ford says “the alarm bells are ringing” as he announced the Ontario government will be limiting social gatherings to 10 people indoors and 25 people outdoors across the province, effective immediately.
The province also limited gatherings in Toronto, Peel Region and Ottawa earlier this week.
Ford also increased fines to $10,000 and $100,000 that would apply to hosts of parties who do not adhere to the new guidelines. Anyone who attends the parties can be fined $750.
The restrictions only apply to unmonitored and private gatherings and will not apply to gatherings in staffed businesses and facilities.
The province’s news release says unmonitored and private social gatherings include functions, parties, dinners, gatherings, BBQs or wedding receptions held in private residences, backyards, parks and other recreational areas.
“Too much of (the increase) is being 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,” said Ford.
The limits will apply for the next four weeks.
“Folks, we can’t have these wild parties,” Ford said. “We have to crack down on the illegal parties.”
The province reported 407 new COVID-19 cases today, the second day in a row where over 400 cases were confirmed.
“We need to ensure we are doing everything we can to reduce the spread,” deputy premier and minister of health Christine Elliott told reporters at Queen’s Park.
The health minister said the action to restrict gatherings is in direct response to recent data that points to these gatherings being a leading contributor to the sharp increase in COVID-19 positivity rates.
“Each and everyone of us has a responsibility to reduce the spread of COVID-19,” she said.
The new restrictions had been requested by mayors and medical officials from other areas.
On Thursday, the mayor of Markham expressed disappointment that York Region was not included in the new restrictions, saying in a statement that he did not want the municipality to become the province’s next hot spot.
The Middlesex-London Health Unit requested Friday that the province include it in the new restrictions as well, after it reported 47 new COVID-19 cases this week.
The Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit on Friday urged people in that region to begin to lessen contact with others, even within their 10-person social bubbles.
Dr. Colin Lee, Simcoe Muskoka’s associate medical officer of health, said there have been 42 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in that region for the week of Sept. 13 – the highest weekly total since early May.
“We need people to scale back on their get-togethers/gatherings, and to remember to be cautious with people not in their household, even if they are in their social circle of 10,” Lee said in a statement. “Social circles are not invincible to COVID-19.”