Many Canadians have been taking advantage of warmer weather to venture outside after spending weeks in lockdown because of COVID-19, but the easing of restrictions has sparked a backlash in Toronto.
A statement from the city said thousands of people packed Trinity Bellwoods Park in the downtown area on Saturday and some were flouting physical distancing regulations.
The city called the crowds “unacceptable” and that they threatened to undo the work done over the last 10 weeks to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus. Mayor John Tory said bylaw officers and police would be out in force Sunday to ensure the rules on distancing are followed.
The city has made it illegal to come within two metres of someone from a different household in parks and public squares. Those who break the bylaw could be handed a $1,000 ticket on the spot, though officers can also issue higher tickets — subject to the court system — in which fines go up to $5,000 on conviction.
WATCH | Mass gathering in Toronto park sparks outrage:
Toronto began reopening park amenities on May 20 for the first time in more than two months. At the same time, people are now being allowed to shop inside stores with street entrances.
The city’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Eileen de Villa, condemned the “selfish and dangerous behaviour” of people flocking to parks.
I understand that the photos of people in Trinity Bellwoods were disappointing today. It was a beautiful day & we all want to enjoy our city together, but this could be selfish & dangerous behaviour that could set us back. (1/3) <a href=”https://t.co/cKVj0DdBhh”>pic.twitter.com/cKVj0DdBhh</a>
She noted the city has seen an uptick in cases of COVID-19, reporting 258 new cases on Friday alone.
“I think people need to at some point go on with their lives. We just have to find a way to do it in a safe fashion,” said Dr. David Carr, an emergency physician with the University Health Network in Toronto.
Ontario’s rolling five-day average of new COVID-19 cases has been trending steadily upward since May 12.
Lots of police officers including mounted unit today at Trinity Bellwoods Park .. though it appears the crowds from yesterday haven’t returned <a href=”https://t.co/C4YdY24xP8″>pic.twitter.com/C4YdY24xP8</a>
Carr said Ontario started reporting more than 400 new cases in one day, after dipping below 300, about 10 to 12 days after Mother’s Day.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford on Sunday said he was “absolutely shocked” to see images from Trinity Bellwoods of “just too many people, too close.”
He said the virus could “spread like wildfire” without precautions and urged people to get tested at one of the 129 assessment centres in the province if they are worried about exposure, even if they are not showing symptoms.
Ford said his government would be releasing a detailed testing strategy next week “targeting various sectors and hotspots across the province.”
A Toronto infectious disease expert took to Twitter to share his dismay at those scenes from the crowded park.
This isn’t right. Respect and compassion is a 2 way street. <a href=”https://t.co/xtecDTB3x5″>pic.twitter.com/xtecDTB3x5</a>
Dr. Abdu Sharkawy’s message was emotional, but also practical. He said doesn’t want the people gathering in Trinity Bellwoods Park to become his patients down the line.
For Muslims across Canada, Eid al-Fitr, marking the end of Ramadan and a month of fasting during daylight hours, began Saturday at sunset. Physical distancing and social gathering restrictions mean the some of the usual events have been cancelled or modified.
Chair of the Manitoba Islamic Association Idris Elbakri said the three-day festival of feasting and praying together will be “very different” for at least 25,000 Muslims living across the province who are breaking the fast.
Elbakri is encouraging people to join the Winnipeg Grand Mosque’s live streaming of Sunday’s sermon on the Islamic group’s Facebook and YouTube channels.
Upcoming summer powwows across Canada are being cancelled or forced to go online due to restrictions on public gatherings during the COVID-19 pandemic, and this worries Josee Bourgeois, an Algonquin dancer from Pikwakanagan First Nation outside of Ottawa.
She says many people in First Nations communities use powwows to kick off their summer and that being outside and reuniting with friends and family is good for their mental health.
As of 1:30 p.m. ET on Sunday, Canada had 84,655 confirmed and presumptive coronavirus cases, with 43,940 of those considered resolved or recovered. A CBC News tally of deaths attributed to coronavirus based on provincial data, regional health information and CBC’s journalism stood at 6,503.
Federal public health officials have been encouraging people to stick with frequent handwashing, cough etiquette, physical distancing and staying home when sick. On Wednesday, Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam added another recommendation, saying people should wear non-medical face masks in public when they aren’t sure they will be able to physically distance.
Here’s what’s happening in the provinces and territories
British Columbia’s top doctor says she strongly encourages the federal government to use its resources to monitor international travellers entering the province. Dr. Bonnie Henry says public servants from various provincial ministries have been working to ensure about 18,000 people who returned to B.C. during the COVID-19 pandemic are self-isolating.
Henry says “meticulous follow-up” is needed if and when the border between the United States and Canada is reopened to ensure anyone with COVID-19 isn’t passing the illness on to others. She says discussions are expected to be held with her federal counterparts on how that could be done with help from Ottawa.
Henry says the province is beefing up public health teams this summer to keep up with COVID-19 testing, contact tracing and tracking because more cases are probable in the fall with the arrival of seasonal respiratory illnesses. Read more about what’s happening in B.C.
WATCH | ‘Things are going mostly really well,’ says Henry:
In Alberta, Calgary and Brooks will join the rest of the province by allowing bars, restaurants, hair salons and barbershops to open on Monday, while more restrictions will be lifted across the province on June 1.
Premier Jason Kenney said Friday that the decision comes on the advice of the chief medical officer of health, though he warned that the virus is still a threat.
“While this is positive news for many, it doesn’t mean that we’re out of the woods yet,” said Kenney. Read more about what’s happening in Alberta.
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Saskatchewan said it will move to the next phase in its reopening on June 8. Bars and restaurants are among the businesses that will be allowed to reopen in Phase 3, though they will have to operate at reduced capacity and with physical distancing measures in place. Read more about what’s happening in Saskatchewan.
In Manitoba, Boeing will lay off around 400 employees in Winnipeg over the next few weeks because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Boeing previously announced we would adjust the size of our company to reflect new market realities through a combination of voluntary layoffs, natural turnover and involuntary layoffs,” spokesperson Jessica Kowal said in a statement emailed to CBC News. Read more about what’s happening in Manitoba.
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Ontario reported 460 new cases of COVID-19 on Sunday, up from the 412 new cases recorded the previous day. The increases bring the province’s total for cases to 25,500 since the pandemic began.
Meanwhile, new testing regulations took effect on Saturday, with asymptomatic front-line health-care workers being tested across the province.
The province will also begin a second round of testing in long-term care homes, which have been hardest hit by COVID-19. Read more about what’s happening in Ontario.
In Quebec, an impending heatwave is raising concerns that the COVID-19 situation in the province’s long-term care residences will worsen.
With 30 C temperatures forecasted, the Quebec Council for the Protection of Patients warns temperatures could rise to untenable levels and the usual practise of moving residents to cooler rooms won’t be possible due to coronavirus restrictions. Read more about what’s happening in Quebec.
New Brunswick reported no new coronavirus cases on Sunday. The total number of cases is 121 with 120 of those patients listed as recovered. No one with COVID-19 is in hospital. Read more about what’s happening in N.B.
Nova Scotia reported one new case on Sunday. There are now 19 active cases in the province.
“It is still important to follow public health advice, practise good hygiene and limit large gatherings,” Dr. Robert Strang, the chief medical officer of health, said in a press release sent out Sunday. “Doing all of these things will help ensure our case numbers continue to stay low.” Read more about what’s happening in N.S.
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Prince Edward Island moved into Phase 2 of reopening on Friday, and is now allowing retail stores to open their doors to the public with physical distancing measures. Read more about what’s happening on P.E.I.
Newfoundland and Labrador reported no new coronavirus cases on Sunday, marking 17 days without a new case. Read more about what’s happening in N.L., where the government has announced new measures to help businesses impacted by the pandemic.
In Canada’s North, the Northwest Territories cancelled its annual Slave River Paddlefest due to COVID-19 concerns. Read more about what’s happening across the North.