The major Canadian province of Ontario will clamp down on social gatherings in response to “reckless careless people” who are spreading the coronavirus at illegal parties, premier Doug Ford said on Thursday.
Separately, Canada’s top medical officer said authorities could lose their ability to manage the coronavirus pandemic due to a worrying recent spike in new cases.
Ford said that, starting Friday, the maximum permitted size of indoor social events would be cut to 10 from 50 while the limit for outdoor gatherings would shrink to 25 from 100. Those who break the law will be subject to fines of up to C$10,000 ($7,580).
“This is a serious situation, folks. We will throw the book at you if you break the rules,” he told a news conference, saying people were “drinking, hugging, kissing, spitting … (and) spreading COVID-19” at illegal parties.
The measures will apply to Toronto – Canada’s largest city – as well as the Peel and Ottawa regions. Ontario is the most populous of Canada’s 10 provinces.
In London, Ontario, Western University posted on Twitter it had halted many non-academic activities on campus after 28 students tested positive.
Canada’s chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam said an average of 779 new cases had been reported daily during the most recent week, more than double the level in July.
“With continued circulation of the virus, the situation could change quickly and we could lose the ability to keep COVID-19 cases at manageable levels,” she said in a statement.
The surge in cases, combined with school rules that require tests for most children or parents with mild symptoms, have driven tens of thousands to testing centers, where many have had to wait hours to be seen.
Canada has so far recorded 139,747 cases and 9,193 coronavirus-related deaths