ontario gathering limit

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."

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.

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.

Private social hangouts held indoors with anyone that you don't live with have been outlawed in Toronto specifically since the city went into grey-level lockdown at 12:01 a.m. on Nov. 23.

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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