Physical distancing rules appeared to have been ignored at some of Toronto’s parks and beaches, where thousands of people gathered Saturday to enjoy the summer-like weather.
Trinity Bellwoods Park, located near Queen Street West and Ossington Avenue, was packed with people who seemed to be disregarding physical distancing by-laws.
Ahead of this weekend, public health officials urged the public to continue to practice physical distancing as Ontario continues to see a rise of new COVID-19 cases after being on the decline for weeks.
Dr. Eileen de Villa, Toronto’s medical officer of health, urged residents on Friday to not socialize in group settings to reduce the risk of spreading the virus.
On Saturday, de Villa posted on Twitter that large gatherings who don’t adhere to physical distancing rules could “set us back.”
Toronto Public Health reported 220 new COVID-19 cases on Saturday, bringing the city’s total to 9,835. Of those cases, 750 have died while 7,202 have recovered.
Ward 10 Councillor Joe Cressy said he is disappointed to see that many were not following the rules.
“It’s dangerous, and frankly, it’s selfish,” Cressy said. “We are by no means out of the woods yet.”
He said Ontario has not spiked the curve, and large crowds make the potential for a second wave into a reality.
It’s just unacceptable behaviour, Cressy said.
Groups of more than five people were also spotted at the downtown park, which violates the province’s emergency order prohibiting gatherings of more than five people who are not members of the same household.
According to the city, it has seen a notable increase in complaints related to park use and physical distancing after weeks of declining number of complaints. Cressy said the city has received many troubling reports Saturday regarding the situation at the downtown park.
“They’re out enjoying the sun, having a couple of drinks to the park and having a good time with friends. But that could all go away if we go into a lockdown park,” Cressy said.
Toronto reopened some park amenities and city services this weekend as part of the province’s reopening plan.
The city said additional officers have been deployed to problematic parks, including Trinity Bellwoods. However, some officers told CP24 that it was impossible to enforce by-laws given the thousands of people who have descended upon the downtown park.
Cressy said officers have told him that with this type of crowd, their own safety is at risk.
He said he has been in touch with city staff to adjust the planning to avoid another gathering of large crowds on Sunday.
“We want to make sure that people can get outside,” Cressy said. “But if people don’t respect the rules, we can’t allow it to happen.”
“You’re putting yourself, your parents, your grandparents, and your friends at risk. So, grow up.”