Mayor to step up enforcement on gathering limits in Ottawa

Gathering limits will be more heavily enforced in the Ottawa area in coming weeks after a spike in cases in the province's COVID-19 hotspots, Mayor Jim Watson announced Thursday.

'Days of us providing a warning or educating people are over,' Ottawa mayor says

Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson says he supports the provincial rollback on gathering limits and will step up on enforcement within the city. (Francis Ferland/CBC)

Limits on gathering will be more strictly enforced in the Ottawa area in coming weeks after a spike in cases in the province's COVID-19 hotspots, Mayor Jim Watson announced Thursday.

"We've stepped up enforcement and the days of us providing a warning or educating people are over," Watson told CBC News in an interview.

On Thursday, Ontario Premier Doug Ford unveiled new measures on social gatherings in  Toronto, Ottawa and Peel regions.

Starting Friday, outdoor gatherings will be limited to 25 people while indoor gatherings will be restricted to just 10, Ford said.

These restrictions however, do not apply to places operated by a business or organization. The rule will not affect restaurants, gyms, movie theatres or banquet halls. 

Watson said he supports the province's rollbacks for the area and is confident in the decision.

"The last thing we want to do is shut down the economy, so I appreciate the fact that the premier did not go down that [path] because the vast majority of our bars and restaurants are working with the rules," said Watson.

Ford said the province is also instituting a minimum fine of $10,000 for anyone found responsible for holding an illegal gathering and any person caught attending can be fined $750.

Watson said he contacted the premier days ago looking to get parties and gatherings at residences under control. 

"The vast majority of COVID-19 cases are coming through these keg parties and barbecues that people are gathering at home," said Watson. 

This week, Ottawa has seen its highest daily case numbers since early May. Ottawa Public Health reported 61 new cases on Monday, a number the nation's capital has not seen since May 3 when OPH reported 63 cases.

Anthony Di Monte, the city's general manager of emergency and protective services said in an emailed statement to CBC News that bylaw and regulatory services (BLRS) officers will continue to enforce gathering limits in Ottawa.

"BLRS will be reviewing information contained in the Province of Ontario's announcement today on the rollback of public gathering limits and determine next steps in terms of staff deployment," Di Monte said. "Officers will continue to exercise discretion; however, non-compliance of Provincial Orders will not be tolerated."

In response to a question about schools and the risk of transmission within them, Watson said he would like to see smaller classes but the decision rests with the province.

"If you have 15 in a class, you have the ability to actually physically distance," he said.

"This is a decision the province is going to have to make because as long as we have significant cost, it's going to be an impediment." 

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