Ontario to pause easing COVID-19 restrictions for a month

Doug Ford wants police to lay more charges after social gatherings fuel rise in new infections

Ontario will “pause” any further reopening of the economy due to the rise in COVID-19 cases.

On Tuesday, Health Minister Christine Elliott told reporters at a Queen’s Park news conference the government will not consider easing pandemic restrictions for four weeks.

“The latest trends in numbers have raised some concern,” Elliott said. “We will be taking a pause of four weeks – or two two-week cycles of the virus – before considering any further loosening of public health measures or further reopening of businesses, facilities or organizations.

“Taking a pause in further reopening at this time will help us to avoid returning to broad scale closures and shutdowns.”

Earlier today, public health officials reported an increase of 375 new infections in the past 48 hours. Daily case growth has remained above 100 for the past 13 days, with most new cases concentrated in the Greater Toronto Area and Ottawa.

The large uptick in new COVID-19 cases comes as elementary, high school and post-secondary students begin a staggered return to schools.

Elliott added the move is necessary to limit community spread in order to reduce the risk of virus transmission in schools.

During the four weeks, there will be no extension of social circles or increases in the number of people allowed to attend sports events, Elliott said.

Ford to police: lay more charges

Premier Doug Ford said he finds the increase in new COVID-19 cases “frustrating,” and asked police to more aggressively lay charges against people who are not quarantining after arriving in Canada or violating public health protocols.

“We have to come down hard on people that aren’t quarantining coming into our country,” he said. “It’s a privilege to come into Canada. It’s a privilege to be here in Ontario. If you aren’t quarantining and you aren’t sitting on your couch, we are coming after you.

“I’m asking the police go in there and lay charges,” he added. “We have to start putting the hammer down on people that don’t want to follow protocols and guidelines.”

The premier said Brampton, Ottawa and Toronto are hot spots for new cases and blamed increases on people having parties and weddings.

He also asked post-secondary students not to gather, noting that Kingston authorities shut down a beach popular among Queen’s University students last week due to crowding.

On Tuesday morning, police in Waterloo said they dispersed a house party of more than 100 students on Monday evening.

“No more parties. I just can’t stress it enough. I don’t want to sound like some dad lecturing you,” Ford said.

The province’s top doctor added that gatherings are fuelling the rise in new cases, but increases in new cases across most of the province remain low.

“We don’t have the widespread [influx of cases] throughout the whole province,” said Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health David Williams. “We have some areas with no cases for many weeks – some with less than five cases for less than two months. Yet we do have people coming in, some not following the quarantine rules, some having family and group gatherings.”

Williams added that Ontario is not seeing the kind of large 300-400 percentage increase in case growth that would merit a return of lockdown measures.

“We’re seeing a per cent increase,” he said.

On Friday, the city of Toronto and York Region said a COVID-19 outbreak was linked to church events at Miracle Arena for All Nations’ two locations at 20 Milvan and 10800 Weston. Fifteen COVID-19 cases have been traced back to the services.

York Region has also linked 23 COVID-19 cases to four weddings that took place between August 28-29.


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