Officials cut social gathering limits across the entire province

WELLINGTON COUNTY – Stricter social gathering limits instituted earlier this week in the Peel, Toronto and Ottawa regions are now in effect across the province of Ontario.

“Over the past several days, we have seen an alarming growth in the number of COVID-19 cases in the province,” said Premier Doug Ford in a Sept. 19 press release.

“Clearly, the numbers are heading in the wrong direction. That’s why we are taking decisive action to lower the size of unmonitored private social gatherings in every region of Ontario.”

Ford added everyone needs to follow public health rules “in order to prevent another province-wide lockdown, and protect all our citizens, especially the elderly and the vulnerable.”

Effective immediately, the gathering limit is decreased from 50 to 10 for indoor events and from 100 to 25 for outdoor events.

The new rules apply to unmonitored social gatherings and events such as parties, dinners, barbecues or wedding receptions held in private residences, backyards, parks and other recreational areas.

They do not apply to bars, restaurants, cinemas, convention centres or banquet halls, gyms, and recreational sporting or performing art events.

Following the introduction of the new rules in Peel, Toronto and Ottawa,  the Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health (WDGPH) unit was among several in southwestern Ontario to lobby the province to introduce the new limits in its catchment area.

“Given the rising cases in our region, it is another tool to reduce the risk of transmission of COVID-19 and help keep our campuses, schools and businesses open as we move into the fall,” stated WDGPH spokesperson Danny Williamson in an email to the Advertiser.

WDGPH medical officer of health Dr. Nicola Mercer agreed.

“I support this decision by the provincial government,” she stated in a Sept. 19 press release.

“The rising cases in our region are concerning. We must use all the tools at our disposal to reduce the spread of COVID-19.”

Deputy Premier and health minster Christine Elliott said the province will continue to monitor the situation closely and “will never hesitate to take further action to protect the health and well-being of all Ontarians.”

The government has also proposed amendments to the Reopening Ontario (A Flexible Response to COVID-19) Act that, if passed, will:

  • make it an offence to host/organize a gathering, in a house or elsewhere, that exceeds regional attendance limits;
  • introduce a minimum fine of $10,000 for organizers of these gatherings;
  • create authority for the Lieutenant Governor in Council to add additional types of premises to the legislation;
  • allow a police officer, special constable or First Nations constable to temporarily close the site of gatherings that exceed the regional limit and to require individuals to leave the premises.

Public health officials are reminding everyone that it remains “critically important for everyone” to continue following public health advice, including:

  • stay home when ill, or keep your child home from school when ill, even with mild symptoms;
  • practising physical distancing with those outside your household or social circle, or at gatherings;
  • protecting your social circle;
  • wearing a face covering when physical distancing is a challenge or where it is mandatory to do so;
  • washing your hands frequently and thoroughly; and
  • adhering to gathering limits and rules.