A bicycle police officer patrols Trinity Bellwoods Park in Toronto on Sunday, May 24, 2020. Warm weather and a reduction in COVID-19 restrictions has many looking to the outdoors for relief. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn

Ontario delays allowing bubble families, larger gatherings as COVID cases rise

Ontario delays allowing bubble families, larger gatherings as COVID cases rise

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau urged Canadians to keep following public health orders heading into summer, as rising COVID-19 cases and high-profile misbehaviour in a Toronto park over the weekend threatened to derail Ontario’s reopening plans.

Canada’s most populous province, one of the hardest hit in the pandemic, had been contemplating letting more than one family to link up in so-called “bubbles” and allowing gatherings of more than five people.

But Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott said Monday that the province’s top doctor is reluctant to loosen those rules yet.

“There is a concern with people creating groups that are too large,” she said.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford expressed frustration at the otherwise “smart young people” who crowded into Trinity Bellwoods Park in downtown Toronto on a warm, sunny Saturday.

“It was like a rock concert without the band,” he said Monday.

But he said the recklessness on display at Trinity Bellwoods was not a reason to reinstitute some of the restrictions already removed.

“I’m not going to punish the whole province because a group of people in Toronto ended up getting together,” he said. “Like, 99.9 per cent of the people are phenomenal.”

Ford encouraged anyone in the Trinity Bellwoods crowd to “do us all a favour” and get tested for the virus.

However, the province’s associate chief medical officer later said she recommends they watch for symptoms for 14 days and avoid coming into contact with high-risk people.

Ontario reported more than 400 new COVID-19 cases Monday for a fifth straight day, after posting daily growth numbers in the 200s and 300s earlier in the month. It has now seen growth rates of between 1.5 and 1.9 per cent for 16 of the past 17 days.

Elliott said the rising numbers were likely due to Mother’s Day gatherings that flouted official guidelines. Ford himself has admitted that two of his daughters who don’t live at home visited that weekend in a group of at least six people.

The premier added officials will be keeping a sharp eye on the numbers and it’s too soon to say how they could play into Ontario’s future reopening plans.

“Everything’s on the table, but we’re very cautious,” he said. “As soon as we see these numbers climb a bit, you get a little gun shy.”

In Ottawa, Trudeau said Canadians will have to keep adjusting their routines as the weather warms up.

“Our approach will have to be tailored to each community,” he said.

“That means the rules and public health recommendations you’re asked to follow may be different depending on where you live and that can be confusing.”

But Trudeau said no matter where they live, everyone has the responsibility to try to stay two metres away from others, and wear a mask in public when physical distancing isn’t possible.

Non-essential retail stores in Montreal opened Monday for the first time since March. That was three weeks later than shops outside the hard-hit city.

Dozens who lined up outside a downtown Zara clothing outlet were greeted by masked employees and a hand-sanitizing station.

Zuleyha Sen was shopping for her nearly eight-year-old son, who had outgrown his clothes. Online orders have been delayed due to the pandemic.

“I won’t go in for a long time, I’m just hoping to grab several things,” she said.

Out West, in Calgary and the city of Brooks in southeastern Alberta, restaurants, bars, hair salons and barbershops that had been left out of Alberta’s first reopening phase were also allowed to resume on Monday. The delay in those cities was due to a high number of COVID-19 caseloads.

Meanwhile, Trudeau said he’ll push the provinces to give workers 10 days of paid sick leave a year — a measure the federal NDP has been urging to ensure no one has to choose between coming to work sick and losing income.

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said the move was a good first step, but he wants to see more action before his party will agree to suspend full sittings of the House of Commons through the summer.

— with files from Allison Jones in Toronto, Morgan Lowrie in Montreal and Lee Berthiaume in Ottawa.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 25, 2020.

Lauren Krugel, The Canadian Press

Coronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Front-line hospital workers have walked off the job at the Rimbey Hospital, and across the province. Photo Submitted
Front-line health care workers on strike across the province, including Rimbey Hospital

The strike is due to cut of 11,000 health care jobs in the province, according to AUPE

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, confirmed more than 1,000 cases over the weekend Monday afternoon. File photo
COVID-19: Central zone active cases up Monday

‘We’ve now crossed the tipping point,’ says Hinshaw

Alberta has 3,651 active cases of COVID-19. (File photo)
432 new COVID cases sets another record Friday

Central zone holds steady at 126 active cases

Ma & Paws Pet Supplies. Facebook/ Ma & Paws Pet Supplies.
Rimbey residents petition for dog park

Request for approval of dog park will be brought up at Tuesday Oct. 27 Town Council meeting.

The future site of the Rimbey Travel Centre. Web photo
New Rimbey development aims to capitalize on highway traffic

Phase I of the Rimbey Travel Centre would be along Hwy. 20, if approved

Royal Alexandra Hospital front-line workers walk a picket line after walking off the job in a wildcat strike in Edmonton, on Monday, October 26, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta labour board orders health-care staff who walked off the job to go back to work

Finance Minister Travis Toews said in a news release that he was pleased with the labour board’s decision

Wetaskiwin Hospital staff join AUPE walk outs across the province Monday Oct. 26, 2020. Shaela Dansereau/ The Pipestone Flyer.
City of Wetaskiwin health-care workers strike in protest of province-wide cuts

Wetaskiwin Hospital staff join other front line hospital workers across the province in walk-outs.

The death of 19-year-old Jacob Michael Chitze of Edmonton has now been ruled a homicide following an ongoing RCMP investigation.
UPDATE: RCMP arrest youth for second degree murder of 19-year-old Jacob Chitze

Arrest made for the murder of Jacob Michael Chitze, 19.

Pumpkins for the 46th Annual WDACS Pumpkin Ball on display at Vision Credit Union Wetaskiwin. Shaela Dansereau/ Pipestone Flyer.
46th Annual Pumpkin Ball held virtually this year

This year the pumpkins were sold over a six-day online auction.

Comedic actor Seth Rogen, right, and business partner Evan Goldberg pose in this undated handout photo. When actor Seth Rogen was growing up and smoking cannabis in Vancouver, he recalls there was a constant cloud of shame around the substance that still lingers. Rogen is determined to change that. (Maarten de Boer ohoto)
Seth Rogen talks about fighting cannabis stigma, why pot should be as accepted as beer

‘I smoke weed all day and every day and have for 20 years’

Leader of the Opposition Erin O’Toole rises during Question Period in the House of Commons Thursday October 22, 2020 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
O’Toole tells Alberta UCP AGM Liberals were ‘late and confused’ on COVID response

He says Alberta Premier Jason Kenney has taken charge and not waited to make things happen

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney arrives for an announcement at a news conference in Calgary, Alta., Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Todd Korol
Inquiry into oil and gas foes to deliver report next year: Kenney

A lawsuit filed by environmental law firm Ecojustice argues the inquiry is politically motivated

The Canadian border is pictured at the Peace Arch Canada/USA border crossing in Surrey, B.C. Friday, March 20, 2020. More than 4.6 million people have arrived in Canada since the border closed last March and fewer than one-quarter of them were ordered to quarantine while the rest were deemed “essential” and exempted from quarantining. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Majority of international travellers since March deemed ‘essential’, avoid quarantine

As of Oct. 20, 3.5 million travellers had been deemed essential, and another 1.1 million were considered non-essential

Most Read