Ontario premier will push to lower social gathering limits in COVID-19 hotspots

TORONTO — Ontario Premier Doug Ford is now pushing to rollback social gathering limits in Toronto, Peel and Ottawa, which have been driving the province’s COVID-19 case numbers, CTV News Toronto has learned.

The province increased the social gathering limit in mid-July allowing up to 50 people to gather indoors and 100 people outdoors.

People quickly capitalized on the new rules, throwing end-of-summer parties, which public health official say contributed to spread of COVID-19 in densely populated cities. 

Ontario’s chief medical officer of health acknowledged that residents might have been confused about the new rules, and stressed that masking and physical distancing still applied during those gatherings – except for those included in a social bubble. 

While Premier Ford originally said last week that regional medical officers of health could impose localized restrictions, none took the premier up on the offer. 

Instead, mayors of the affected areas held direct talks with Ford to raise concerns about the social gathering rules, strip clubs, and alcohol serving hours – pressing the premier to impose restrictions from a provincial level, but on a regional basis. 

Today, Ford and his cabinet will consider a number of options on social gathering limits. Government sources say, however, the limits may not apply to businesses, which have expressed concerns about the impact of further restrictions on the viability of their operations. 

Ontario recorded another surge in the number of new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, surpassing Monday’s reported 14-week high.

Health officials reported 315 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, which is the highest since June 5 when Ontario added 387 new infections.

There are 77 new cases in Toronto, 61 in Ottawa, 54 in Peel Region, 37 in York Region and 24 new in Durham Region.

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