Toronto's top doctor says people are still gathering illegally in homes
Private indoor gatherings have officially been banned across Ontario since Boxing Day as part of the new blanket lockdown, but that hasn't stopped people from gathering with friends and family over the holidays, according to Toronto's Chief Medical Officer of Health.
Dr. Eileen de Villa said at a briefing on Wednesday that she is concerned with the extent to which people are "mixing," and noted that according to an online survey recently conducted by the City, 21 per cent of residents reported gathering in a private home and with people who weren't members of their household between Dec. 14 and 20.
As a result, Toronto should "brace for an extended period of potentially unsettling and discouraging numbers in terms of COVID-19 infections in Toronto," she said, adding that we won't see the consequences of holiday spread for another week or two.
She also announced that more stringent pandemic restrictions will be coming for businesses in the city in the coming days, as "the fewer people we have mixing at this point is perhaps the most important defense against COVID-19 that's under our control."
Happening now, Toronto chief medical officer Dr. Eileen de Villa reporting 1,069 new cases. More than 4,000 cases in last 7 days. She says these cases are likely not connected to Christmas gatherings, too soon to see effects of those. And so, she says T.O should brace themselves— Meagan Fitzpatrick (@fitz_meagan) December 30, 2020
Mayor John Tory and Toronto pandemic response lead Chief Matthew Pegg echoed the top doctor's message, imploring residents to continue to stay at home spending time with only those they live with.
Since the team's last update just before Christmas, the City issued 13 charges and 93 notices to both businesses and individual people for hosting illegal gatherings. The assumption is that many, many more went undocumented and that the number of private gatherings over the holidays has been severely underestimated.
Another 33 charges and 21 notices were issued to entertainment venues for otherwise illegally operating.
But, despite those who have been flouting the rules, Pegg said that he has faith that the majority of the population will continue to follow health and safety guidelines, even over New Year's.
I know people who have decided to go visit others for the New Years break or longer because school is online next week. 🤦♀️.— Brenda L. Wood (@BrendaLWood1970) December 30, 2020
Complaints of illicit gatherings will be taken via 311 and enforcement officers will respond accordingly if needed, with Pegg adding he does not expect a surge in misbehaviour over the coming days.
"I just hope that we're going to see people continue to make good choices and even increasingly so make good choices… we'd all love to be standing here in Nathan Phillips Square enjoying a large celebration but that obviously isn't going to happen," he told reporters.
Mayor John Tory adds: there may be people who think this is not their problem -- but this is a problem across Toronto. He says people who were staying home in spring, aren't now. #COVID19ON— Kaitlin Lee (@Kaitlin_Lee) December 30, 2020
Outdoor gatherings, meanwhile, have been limited to 10, but the province has advised against any type of unnecessary visits with others whatsoever, and has asked that residents maintain a distance of at least two metres when interacting with any person(s) from outside their household in any environment.
Travel within and outside of Ontario should also be limited to only the most essential trips.
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