Toronto introducing dedicated police officers to focus on COVID-19 enforcement
As the number of new cases of COVID-19 continues to rise in Toronto, officials say the time to focus on education surrounding health and safety protocols is long over and the city will now instead be focusing on enforcement.
Speaking during the city's COVID-19 press briefing Monday afternoon, General Manager of the City's office of emergency management and Toronto Fire Chief Matthew Pegg said the City has given people ample opportunity to understand what is being asked of them.
Now, there will be a greater emphasis on enforcement of the province's new gathering limits.
While outdoor gatherings were previously allowed to have up to 100 people and indoor gatherings could have 50, those numbers have since been updated to 25 and 10, respectively.
"We will enforce provincial regulations in an effort to arrest the spread of COVID-19," said Pegg.
"Our coordinated enforcement teams are actively enforcing the amended gathering size restrictions. We are working together to achieve one over-arching goal: Preventing the continued spread of COVID-19 in Toronto."
During the same press conference, Toronto Interim Police Chief James Ramer said a specific group of law enforcement officers will be working with bylaw and public health officers so there will be a consistent approach with a focus on enforcement.
And while there won't actually be an increase in resources, Ramer said the difference is now a prioritization.
"This is now a priority and we will prioritize resources collaboratively with the municipal licensing partners and public health," Ramer said.
Pegg, meanwhile, explained the complexities of enforcement and said that a public complaint must first be investigated and confirmed before any charges can be laid.
He said over the weekend, a total of 21 complaints related to gatherings were made but the thresholds for enforcement were not met. In these cases, officers were not able to confirm that gatherings broke provincial orders because attendees dispersed before they arrived.
But the City expects that complaints will likely increase as cases do the same, and Pegg said that police, bylaw and public health officers will not hesitate to take enforcement actions as required.
Under the new provincial regulations, the fine for hosting a private event that exceeds the gathering limit is $10,000, while attendees are subject to fines of $750 each.
Echoing the need for increased enforcement and adherance to public health measures, Toronto's medical officer of health said Monday that she fears too many people are unwilling to make the inconvenient sacrifices required to get through this pandemic with as few cases and deaths as possible.
"Life has changed and all of us have to act like it, but I fear that on some level, too many of us are unwilling to make the changes we need to make to keep everyone safe and limit the spread of COVID-19," said Dr. Eileen de Villa.
"We have to choose to live differently, at least for now. COVID-19 is here until there's a vaccine and we have to act differently until we get it."
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