Province launches new website, addresses public gatherings and price gouging

TORONTO – The province has prohibited gatherings of more than five people, introduced penalties for price gouging and launched a new COVID-19 website and reporting procedures.

The moves, announced by premier Doug Ford on March 28 and 30, are part of Ontario’s ongoing response to the coronavirus crisis.

On March 28, Ford announced the government has issued an emergency order to prohibit organized public events and social gatherings of more than five people, effective immediately.

The order was issued on the advice of Ontario’s chief medical officer of health under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act.

Exceptions to the order include private households with five or more people, child care centres providing care for frontline workers (the number of people at each centre can not exceed 50), and funerals with up to 10 people.

“If we are going to stop the spread of COVID-19 now and keep our communities safe, we need to take extraordinary measures to ensure physical distancing,” said Ford.

“I strongly encourage everyone to do the responsible thing and stay home unless absolutely necessary. I can assure everyone that we will do everything in our power to stop this virus in its tracks.”

The order issued on Saturday also replaces a previous order that prohibited organized public events over 50 people.

Price gouging

“If you’re engaging in price gouging on necessary goods, we are going to slap you with a ticket, or you could face fines or jail time.”

Those were the words used by Ford on March 28 during his daily update with media.

Ford said new price gouging penalties for retail businesses and individuals in Ontario, effective immediately, were introduced in an emergency order issued by the province designed to see necessary goods sold at a fair price.

According to the province, necessary goods include:

  • masks and gloves used as personal protective equipment;
  • non-prescription medications for the treatment of symptoms of the coronavirus;
  • disinfecting agents intended for cleaning and disinfecting objects or humans; and
  • personal hygiene products, including soap products and paper products.

Those found guilty of price gouging can face a fine of $750. If summoned to court and convicted, individuals could face a maximum fine of $100,000 and one year in jail. A company director or officer could face a fine of up to $500,000 and one year in jail, and the corporation could face a fine of up to $10 million.

“Starting today, we are taking serious steps to ensure our frontline workers, our families and our most vulnerable citizens have what they need to stay safe,” said Ford. “We are putting an end to those trying to profit off of one of the darkest periods in our province’s history.”

Price gouging complaints can be filed online or by calling 1-800-889-9768, Monday to Friday between the hours of 8:30am and 5pm.

New website

On March 30, the province announced the launch of a new website and changes to how COVID-19 cases are being reported.

Officials say the new website and reporting will provide “a more relevant summary of data from Public Health Ontario that offers expanded information” every day at 10:30am.

The new website replaces the general information page the province was using to report COVID-19 cases, which was updated twice daily.

Officials say that the new page contains more provincial and regional data on confirmed cases, including trends since the COVID-19 outbreak began.

The information on the new website is based on data recorded by local public health units in the province’s integrated Public Health Information System as of 4pm the prior day.