In consultation with the Chief Medical Officer of Health, local medical officers of health and local municipal leaders, the Ontario government has amended order O. Reg 364/20: Rules for Areas in Stage 3 under the Reopening Ontario (A Flexible Response to COVID-19) Act, 2020, setting a new limit reducing the number of people permitted to attend unmonitored social gatherings and organized public events in three regions experiencing higher rates of transmission of COVID-19. This includes functions, parties, dinners, gatherings, BBQs or wedding receptions held in private residences, backyards, parks and other recreational areas.
“We have been working hand-in-hand with our medical officials and our mayors to try and slow down and limit new cases in the regions with the highest rates of transmission,” said Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health. “This targeted action is in direct response to the latest data, which tells us that increased cases are the result of private and social gatherings. By limiting the number of people permitted at a social gathering in these regions, we will reduce the spread of COVID-19 and keep people safe.”
To help prevent the spread of COVID-19, the amended order will set a new limit on the number of people allowed to attend an unmonitored social gathering or organized public event in three specific regions to:
- 10 people at an indoor event or gathering (previous limit of 50); or
- 25 people at an outdoor event or gathering (previous limit of 100).
Indoor and outdoor events and gatherings cannot be merged together. These are not accumulative and gatherings of 35 (25 outdoors and 10 indoors) are not permitted.
The new limits will only apply to persons within the boundaries of the following public health units:
- Ottawa Public Health;
- Peel Public Health; and
- Toronto Public Health.
This amended order will come into effect on September 18 at 12:01 a.m.
The new limits will not apply to events or gatherings held in staffed businesses and facilities, such as bars, restaurants, cinemas, convention centres or banquet halls, gyms, and recreational sporting or performing art events. Existing rules, including public health and workplace safety measures, for these businesses and facilities continue to be in effect.
To support better compliance with public health guidelines, both within these three regions and across Ontario, amendments to the Reopening Ontario (A Flexible Response to COVID-19) Act would, if passed, create:
- A new offence regarding hosting or organizing a gathering in residential premises or other prescribed premises that exceeds limits under an order
- A minimum fine of $10,000 for organizers of these gatherings
- Authority for the Lieutenant Governor in Council to prescribe additional types of premises for the purpose of the new offence.
- Authority for a police officer, special constable or First Nations constable to order the temporary closure of a premise where there are reasonable grounds to believe that any gathering exceeding the number of people allowed is taking place and require individuals to leave the premises.
These new compliance mechanisms are the most stringent in all of Canada.
“We are determined to take decisive action to protect Ontario’s recovery and keep people safe across our province. With the recent rise in COVID-19 cases, a continued agile and proactive response to the evolving public health situation is vitally important,” said Solicitor General Sylvia Jones. “While most Ontarians are following provincial orders and public health guidelines, those caught breaking the rules will now face stiffer penalties. We are taking stronger action by setting a minimum fine of $10,000 for people who organize gatherings in private residences that violate social gathering restrictions and recklessly put others at risk.”
With a recent increase in cases of COVID-19, it remains vital for the government to continue to protect vulnerable populations. As well, in consultation with the Chief Medical Officer of Health, the Ontario government has extended orders currently in force under the Reopening Ontario (A Flexible Response to COVID-19) Act, 2020 (ROA) to October 22, 2020. Orders in effect under the ROA will allow the government to maintain the flexibility it needs to address the ongoing and emerging risks as well as the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Chief Medical Officer of Health and other public health experts continue to closely monitor the evolving situation to advise when public health measures or restrictions can be further loosened or if they need to be tightened.
It remains critically important for everyone to continue following public health advice. This includes: staying home when ill, or keeping 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 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. For additional protection, the Ontario government is encouraging everyone to download the new COVID Alert app on their smart phone from the Apple and Google Play app stores.