ontario gathering limit

City of Toronto lays more charges for large gatherings over the holidays

Though some of us may have expected businesses in Toronto to continue to operate illegally in contravention of Ontario lockdown orders over the holidays, officials revealed on Monday that most establishments, especially bars and restaurants, have been following the rules in recent days.

Since the last formal update nearly two weeks ago, the City has proactively checked up on hundreds of businesses as part of its ramped-up enforcement of COVID-19 health and safety measures, which have been harsher than ever since Boxing Day.

Though there have been recent instances of bars hosting secret indoor maskless parties and dozens of businesses getting charged in just one weekend for opening their doors when they shouldn't have, the past 12 days have been pretty tame, surprisingly.

Whether it's due to people actually heeding the rules or laxer enforcement is unclear.

Toronto pandemic response lead and Fire Chief Matthew Pegg said in a media briefing today that since Dec. 23, only seven retail stores, personal service and other businesses were charged with violating the Reopening Ontario Act. An additional nine faced warnings.

Even better, out of 118 proactive investigations of bars and restaurants, zero infractions were discovered and no tickets were issued.

But, unfortunately, private citizens are still flouting restrictions on social gatherings, which have been completely banned in indoor settings in Toronto since we entered the grey zone back on Nov. 23, and prohibited province-wide since the most recent blanket lockdown went into effect just over a week ago.

A total of 20 gatherings were laid over Christmas and New Year's due to "large gatherings on private property" — a number that admittedly feels extremely low given how many Canadians openly said they were planning to get together with friends and family regardless of the directives.

These parties took place in people's homes, as well as in short-term rentals, at two public protests and at one place of worship. (Thankfully, the days of storage unit shindigs seem to be over, for now.)

"The fewer people we have mixing at this point is perhaps the most important defense against COVID-19 that's under our control," the city's chief medical officer of health, Dr. Eileen de Villa, said before Christmas as she implored residents to stay home and only interact with those they live with.

"We should brace for an extended period of potentially unsettling and discouraging numbers in terms of COVID-19 infections in Toronto," she added, blaming people continuing to defy such rules for recent infection numbers.

But, with politicans jetting off on non-essential vacations and otherwise failing to abide by to the advice they and their government are giving the public and people getting restless after weeks of extended lockdown that has not yielded the low case counts we were hoping for, there is little reason to believe that social gatherings in the city will suddenly stop taking place altogether.

As per the most recent data, the province has seen a total of 194,232 cases of COVID-19 — 3,270 in the last day — with 85 per cent of them now resolved. The mortality rate for the virus in Ontario is approximately 2.4 per cent, with 69 per cent of deaths in residents aged 80 and older.

Per cent positivity among those tested hovers just above 5 per cent at this time.

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