Enforcement ramps up in parts of Ontario

Nicole Thompson
The Canadian Press

Officials in southern Ontario fined businesses, charged anti-maskers and busted at least one massive party over the weekend as the province recorded another 1,708 cases of COVID-19 on Sunday.

The enforcement in York, Hamilton and Peel came after a week that saw record-setting viral case counts and the introduction of more stringent public health measures in some regions.

In Mississauga, Ont., a part of Peel Region which is currently under lockdown, police said authorities had broken up a party with 60 attendees at a short-term rental unit.

“It’s a tough time for everyone,” Deputy Chief Marc Andrews of the Peel Regional Police tweeted. “These antics help no one.”

He said bylaw officers issued 27 fines of $880, and three Part 3 summons to the hosts, who he said could face at least $10,000 in fines if convicted.

In York Region, officials continued an enforcement blitz at businesses to make sure they were following public health protocols for the province’s “red” zones.

The rules limit indoor dining to 10 customers at a time with physical distancing in place. Gyms, meanwhile, can only have 10 patrons inside at once, while 25 people can attend outdoor classes.

Officers inspected 256 businesses on Sunday and issued charges at 16, a news release said.

An L.A. Fitness location in East Gwillimbury, Ont., and the Trio Sportsplex in Vaughan, Ont., are among those facing charges.

Authorities have inspected 867 businesses since Friday, laid 32 charges and completed 1,151 “compliance education activities,” the release said.

Farther west, Hamilton Police announced they had charged three men — aged 26, 48 and 72 — at a “Hugs over Masks” protest in the city’s downtown area on Sunday.

Police said 35 people attended the event, exceeding the maximum number of people allowed at outdoor gatherings.

“Prior to the event, Hamilton Police identified the organizer and informed him that the planned gathering would breach offences under the Reopening Ontario Act and leave him open to charges, police said in a written statement. ”The organizer went ahead with the event.“

All three men — one of whom police said was the organizer — were charged under the Act, and would face a fine of at least $10,000 if convicted.

The charges came as the province logged 24 new deaths linked to COVID-19 on Sunday.

Of the new cases reported on Sunday, 503 came from Peel Region and 463 were identified in Toronto, Health Minister Christine Elliott said in a tweet. Those are the only two regions under the “lockdown” phase of the province’s tiered, colour-coded pandemic response framework.

She said another 185 were in York Region, which is at the red alert level, the next most stringent under the provincial system.

The province said nearly 54,000 tests were completed since the last daily update, and 1,443 cases are newly considered resolved.

The numbers came a day before more stringent COVID-19 measures were set to take effect in five Ontario regions.

Windsor-Essex will be moved to the red level, Haldimand-Norfolk to orange, and three others — Hastings Prince Edward, Lambton and Northwestern — to yellow.

Provincial data released on Thursday suggested case counts were flattening somewhat, but Ontario recorded its highest number of daily infections the next day, at 1,855.

Officials have said it could take up to two weeks after new restrictions are imposed to see any improvements.